Pregnancy and parenting for the perplexed
Here is a list of things that you may find similarly useful.
This is a wryly amusing book on the culture differences between French and American parenting, which has resonances, I’d say, for any Anglo/Westerner parents trying to figure out how to come up with a parenting philosophy.
Discovering the French assumptions behind raising children leads Druckerman to figure out her own style that incorporates sleeping more and better, unfussy eating, laying out few, but strict rules (and allowing great freedom within them), and understanding the child’s need for small acts of insignificant naughtiness (betises). My partner and I have both read it more than once and it has formed the basis of many conversations about parenting and what we want (and don’t want). Good for a laugh.
It’s also the book that lead me to the research paper Help Me Make It Through The Night, which definitely helped us to set up good sleep patterns with our Miss B.
Pretty much an Aussie staple for expectant parents, Cooke’s book combines a ‘what to expect’ vibe with excerpts from her own diary and helpful resources at each stage of the pregnancy. Rather than sugar-coating the experience and pretending that women should just find everything to do with pregnancy ‘natural’, ‘instinctive’, and ‘beautiful’, Cooke gives a matter-of-fact account of the less-talked-about elements of pregnancy which are not suited to an 8×10 glossy photograph.
For some reason this webpage isn’t loading correctly for me right now, but I’ll check back and see later and then add a link.
This website gives you a week-by-week what’s going on with your baby summary. It also gives you insights into your own body and changing physical state. I pretty much checked in each week to discover how big the baby was and what weird new thing it had developed — ‘ears!’, ‘fingerprints!’ being two examples.
I can’t recommend this enough. Sign up for the newsletters, they are dead on. Written again in a wry and down to earth fashion, this website, blog, and newsletter gives you crucial information, like what you really need to buy before the baby comes, and what to avoid; how your feels are going to track before and after the baby; what your body’s doing (and trust me there are going to be times when you desperately want to know!), and what’s going on with the babe now it’s leading a semi-independent external existence of its own. Invaluable. Really.
After the baby
If you’re anything like me and many friends I know, you’re going to read most of the Internet in your search for wtf is actually going on after the first couple of weeks of being home with your no-longer-mellow baby. A couple of key reference books are handy, some websites can be trusted; but there is an awful lot of BS out there in cyberspace, poorly considered opinion dressed up as fact, and the like. So be wary of what you choose to pay attention to. It will be hard. In the vulnerable emotional state of new-parenthood, with all the sleep-deprivation and confusion that entails, you’re going to be susceptible to anything that looks like a panacea. NOTHING IS THAT FOOLPROOF. Folk wisdom should be avoided every time. Whoever is offering you advice, think about when they last lived with a newborn. More than 12 months ago? Ditch their advice — they don’t remember. Life with a newborn is completely different to life with a baby. Well-meaning people forget this. Everyone forgets this. You’re meant to. It’s hard.
Here are the books I have, with quick summaries of the good and the not-so-good parts I found in them.
Another staple in many Aussie households, this is a less scary and more useful version of What To Expect In The First Year. Rather than convincing you that everything is significant, Ms Barker (a long-time midwife) talks about what’s normal, what’s unusual but fine, and what merits investigation, further attention, or immediate treatment. It’s broken up into, broadly, age-related sections, and has an excellent index. I can’t stress the importance of an excellent index enough — when you’re low on sleep and have no emotional resilience, you want to flip to the back, look it up, and read a reassuring paragraph or two. This is that book. It gives all the essential information on how much babies need to eat, some good breastfeeding tips and advice, wrapping and dressing (and bathing) a baby, what constitutes a temperature, and more besides. Of course it also has ‘milestone’ information that you can read when you have more time, too.
The best part about this book is it gives you a framework to build your own ‘schedule’ around, when it comes time that you want to do this. So, for example, what the ideal 6-week-old baby schedule is, and then transitioning to 8 weeks and so on. It also gives (some) helpful advice on settling.
The bad parts of this book are that Hall gives no quarter to new mums whose babies don’t fall into line. This makes you feel like YOU are doing something wrong when your baby doesn’t miraculously go to sleep at 9am exactly and sleep for precisely two hours. Even though Hall says things like “resettle as necessary’ and ‘let the baby self-settle’, and, indeed, includes settling advice — all of which demonstrates that she knows babies cry off-schedule, as it were — nevertheless, the majority of the book’s advice is structured such that you feel a bit like a failure if your baby doesn’t co-operate. For me, it meant I was watching the clock more than listening to and learning about my own baby. This was a real problem for a few weeks, and definitely stopped me from bonding with her as closely as I feel I could have. For a while, though — everything is fine now. But to throw in another piece of unsolicited advice — watch the baby, not the clock. It’s the best way to learn what your baby is like. Books by definition are based on either highly subjective individual stories about different babies than yours, or aggregate information that fails to capture the specific differences your baby will demonstrate.
So. Read the book to get an idea of schedules, by all means. But be flexible. Be tuned in to your baby.
This book is pretty good and written by a paediatrician. While Chilton gives good advice, mostly reinforcing other good advice I’ve gleaned from different places, his exploration of the concept of the ‘fourth trimester’ is pretty interesting and good. It helps you think about what the baby might be going through, and that’s interesting and probably good for building empathy with your little one, apart from anything else. He is very reassuring about babies’ crying. That is, babies cry. It’s pretty much their one means of communication. So yeah, don’t worry about it too much.
I don’t like his take on co-sleeping and SIDS, personally, but I understand that that is a decision individual parents make. His association between unsafe sleeping and wilful infanticide is historically dubious, and does not follow health and safety best-practice guidelines. He also uses exclamation points too much, which bespeaks the kind of chipper attitude that really annoys me because it seems really patronising, when you consider that his audience is likely to be tertiary educated women who are looking for solid research on what’s best for them and their babies. But that’s a style issue more than anything else.
Other things I’ve used:
A couple of tips I’ve got of my very own to share.
Other recommendations? Comment below and I’ll look into them!
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