How to get on the same page as new parents•
Recently I read an article from the New York Times: “Sleep Training My Child Almost Put My Marriage to Bed”.
The article covers writer Jacob E. Osterhout’s experience sleep training his son and the strain it put on his marriage.
Osterhout and his wife disagreed on how to handle their child’s tearful wakeups. While his wife wanted to sleep train their child, allowing him to cry it out, Osterhout found himself unable to handle their child’s cries without going to the baby. Both perspectives are entirely normal and understandable.
The article got me thinking that while parenting is often is difficult, it’s made that much harder when the child’s caregivers find themselves unable to agree when making parenting choices.
Here are a few tips on how to prepare to be on the same page.
- Education: Read reputable books and articles and follow experts on social media that cover aspects of parenting. Parenting is a job for which there is no guide book, but there are plenty of experts educated on the subject who can help. There are also plenty of non-reputable sources; be wary of what you consume. My book ‘How Babies Sleep’ contains recommendations and guidance developed through my work as a sleep scientist.
- Talk: Discuss with the other caregiver about how you each want to tackle the challenges that will almost certainly come up. If you disagree, talk about it until you can agree or compromise. Both caregivers should read the same material and agree on what advice to follow.
- Build a plan: Much like the parents in this article, you’ll find it hard to decide what to do in the moment. When you wake to a crying baby at 3am after having been awake most of the night, it is not the time to plan how to deal with it. When you and the other caregiver are awake and calm, write down a plan, stick it to the fridge or somewhere in your room, and as new challenges arise, amend the plan together.
- Share the plan with others: Your parents, babysitter, or anyone else who might be around your baby also needs to know the plan. You’ll likely get a lot of unsolicited opinions about what they think you should do, but do your best to remember, this is your child and their care is down to you and the other caregiver.
A final suggestion that may help any parents feeling the strain of a new baby on their relationship: babies go through many short phases. If you’re experiencing some new challenge, like a sleep regression, it won’t last long. You can get through. This too shall pass!