The parenting journey
When I was pregnant, I read a lot of books. With my due-date approaching, I actually felt pretty confident about what lay ahead. As I progressed through my parenting journey, however, I discovered that there are aspects of motherhood seemingly too taboo to be spoken of out loud. Here are the top 5 things that I really wish I had known.
We all love differently
Many parents-to-be are regaled with accounts of the immediate and all-consuming rush of love they will feel the moment their baby is born. But not everyone feels this. Some parents absolutely do but for others, the love grows over time – which is completely normal and doesn’t mean the love is any less strong. Feelings of doubt and being overwhelmed are common. Being honest with family, close friends and during postnatal appointments is the best way to ensure you are properly supported through probably the single biggest life-change you will ever experience.
Babies do things in their own time
In the same way that all parents are individuals, so are babies. The temptation to compare our little one’s progress towards smiling, crawling, walking, talking etc is almost irresistible. It’s also fairly pointless – not to mention stressful. Whilst there is broad commonality in terms of certain developmental milestones, the “normal” range for reaching hotly-anticipated landmarks is often much wider than parents believe. The system of developmental reviews is designed to flag up any irregularities. Further, you can of course discuss any concerns with your doctor and/or Health Visitor. However, try not to worry too much based on comparing your little one to your friends’ babies.
Very few things stay the same
A phrase that new parents hear a lot is, ‘everything is a phase’. I found this sentence infuriating at times as it can trivialise some of the most challenging times in your parenting experience. It is fair to say that things do change though – some things get easier, some become harder and others are just different. In my experience, very few parents love every stage. It is also surprising how many things you don’t realise you will miss until they have gone – night-feeds being one example of this in my case. Wonderweeks have a guide on your baby’s leaps and development stages.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help
Around half of my clients report that they haven’t told anyone they have sought professional help with their child’s sleep. Many say they fear being judged or mum-shamed for ‘failing’ the sleep part of the parenting test. Just because we create these tiny humans does not make us automatic experts in every aspect of raising them. From feeding to sleep and everything in between, there is a lot of evidence-based, specialist support available to parents. So, with that in mind, my final point is a sleep tip…
Babies need much more sleep than parents usually expect
Parenting would be a whole lot easier if babies just fell asleep when they are tired. Unfortunately, whilst some do, many do not – instead preferring to continue responding to the exciting new world around them until the point of sheer exhaustion. When a baby sleeps is just as important as how much and most new parents I speak to are surprised to hear that for most newborn babies, their comfortable awake time is likely to be as little as one hour. By going beyond that, especially multiple times in a day, a baby will ultimately become unable to sleep well, due to the hormones they have released to sustain wakefulness.
Possibly the most counterintuitive piece of advice I give parents is that sleep breeds sleep! The NHS has some useful tips on helping your baby to sleep.
When it comes to you and your new baby, above all, trust your instincts. As long as you access help when you need it, you won’t go far wrong. You’ve got this Mama!
AUTHOR: LAUREN PEACOCK
SLEEP CONSULTANT IN SURREY
Lauren is a child sleep consultant and founder of Little Sleep Stars. A former tired mama herself. Lauren uses gentle, holistic approaches to help families find their way back to sleep calmly.