When I was pregnant, my mind was cluttered with so much baggage - including lots of anxiety about some high-risk conditions I was navigating, the resulting (bizarre) diet I needed to adhere to and weekly monitoring that drove me a little nuts. With so much on my plate, I decided that determining a strategy for living with a baby (napping schedules, feeding schedules, how to breastfeed, how to formula feed, how to pump, when to pump, when to sleep, how to mom) could wait until after the baby arrived.
This may have been a mistake.
It's fine now (definitely fine!), but by the time I opened any of these books it felt too late. Four months in and I'd lost any chance of putting baby on a schedule for the rest of his life. Four months deep and it felt like I had already made my bed I'd need to sleep in (or not sleep in, as the case was).
So I read a few books, maybe too late to make any real difference. But some of the books were infinitely more helpful than others. So here are some of my favorites, the ones that stand out in my hazy memory of that time when no one was sleeping but everyone was in love, so did sleep even matter? (The answer is yes, it always always matters, it matters so very very much.)
Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, by Pamela Druckerman
This was the most recent book I read, and it was the best. I wished I read it before the baby was so old (he was already five months old, practically a teenager) but there is a lot of content in the book beyond sleep and feeding schedules. I still think back to some of the bigger messages in the book when I feel myself getting anxious about milestones or the 'Performative Parenting' that pervades my Facebook newsfeed. This is the book I would recommend and gift to all my pregnant friends.
This is one of my favorite passages, and one that I remind myself of not infrequently:
"In the 1960s, the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget came to America to share his theories on the stages of children's development. After each talk, someone in the audience typically asked him what he began calling the American Question. It was: How can we speed these stages up?
Piaget's answer was: Why would you want to do that? He didn't think that pushing kids to acquire skills ahead of schedule was either possible or desirable. He believed that children reach these milestone at their own speeds, driven by their own inner motors.
The American Question sums up an essential difference between French and American parents. We Americans assign ourselves the job of pushing, stimulating, and carrying our kids from one developmental stage to the next. The better we are at parenting, we think, the faster our kids will develop. In my Anglophone playgroup in Paris, some of the mothers flaunt the fact that their kids take music classes or that they go to a separate Portuguese-speaking playgroup [...] These mothers would never admit that they're being competitive, but the feeling is palpable.
French parents just don't seem so anxious for their kids to get head starts. They don't push them to read, swim, or do math ahead of schedule. They aren't trying to prod them into becoming prodigies. I don't get the feeling that - surreptitiously or otherwise - we're all in a race for some unnamed prize. They do sign their kids up for tennis, fencing, and English lessons. but they don't parade these activities as proof of what good parents they are [...] In France, the point of enrolling a child in Saturday-morning music class isn't to activate some neural network. It's to have fun...French parents believe in 'awakening' and 'discovery.'"
On Becoming Babywise, by Gary Ezzo, MA Robert Bucknam, MD
My sister-in-law gifted this to me with plenty of time to read it in advance. I chose not to and by the time I opened it I felt like my little guy was a lost cause. However, it's very straightforward and could have been massively helpful had I read it in the early days or just before bringing this little dude into the world.
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, MD
My therapist recommended this to me long before the little dude was born, with the explicit warning that it's a very difficult book to navigate especially when on less than an hour of consecutive sleep. It had some good ideas that I found very difficult to implement when I tried putting the babe on a schedule, but this seems like it could have been a brilliant solution - had I been prepared, or organized, or effective. This was a low moment for me, but it could work for you. It worked for my therapist.
Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvey Karp, MD
Serious confession. I never opened this book. We have it, and it sat on my shelf mocking me for months. Instead, I watched the accompanying DVD. And it was a miracle! This was the only preparation I was armed with before the baby was born, and it helped. It might have helped. It is so hard to be certain but the 5 S's were lifesavers, or at least I think they were. Read this. Or watch this. But do this first, because this is about immediacy.
Pro Tip: I just ran into a friend who swears by 12 Hours of Sleep by 12 Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano. I can't speak from personal experience but her sweet girl has apparently been sleeping through the night since she was only five weeks, so this one may be worth a shot. Or it may be that she happens to have a miracle baby. Hard to say.
Good luck new mamas and papas, and godspeed.