So, you are planning to have a baby, or are already pregnant. However, Dr Alan Singer, author of Creating Your Perfect Family Size, and founder of perfectfamilysize.blogspot.co.za, suggests that there are a number of crucial questions that need to be asked and answered first, as these can have a large impact on family success and wellbeing.
Here are 9 parenting debates you need to have squared away before your baby arrives:
How many children
This is a discussion to have before you even get married, as one of the biggest couple conflicts can be over whether to have children or not, and how many you want. This is the kind of discussion that can make or break a relationship so it is important to have this sooner rather than later. According to Singer, the size of the family you were raised in impacts the size of the family you may choose to have yourself.
This seems innocuous enough, but it can be a debate that may result in resentment and frustration if one partner feels they are doing much more than the other. The fact of the matter is that during the first few weeks of your baby’s life, you as the mother will be the primary caregiver, particularly if you are breastfeeding. However, have a discussion now about things like do you share nappy changes, or do you do the nappy changes and your partner is in charge of bath and bedtime. Yes, plans may change when your baby is here, but if you discuss now how hands on your partner will be, it will save much disgruntlement later on.
Attachment parenting: Yes, or no?
The term was coined by Dr William Sear in his 198 book Creative Parenting, where he referred to a philosophy of “Immersion motherhood”. In 1993, he and his wife, Martha, released The Baby Book, which was considered to be the first comprehensive manual for attachment parenting, and has been dubbed the “attachment parenting bible”. Studies have found that babies are born “hardwired” with the need to be nurtured and to remain physically close to their primary caregiver (in most cases, the mother), during the first few years of life. It is believed that your baby’s emotional, physical and mental development is greatly enhanced when these basic needs are met consistently. The three key needs are: proximity, protection and predictability. This generally brings up debates such as breastfeeding on demand and co-sleeping.
According to Attachment Parenting International (API), babies and children have the same needs at night as they do during the day, and rely on you to soothe them and help them regulate their emotions. API believes that sleep training techniques have detrimental physiological and psychological effects. API recommends practicing safe co-sleeping as these have benefits for both your baby and you. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in a policy statement released in 2016, recommends that babies should sleep in the same bedroom as you, but on a separate surface, such as a cot or bassinet, to help decrease the risk of sleep-related deaths. According to the report, it is recommended babies spend at least the first six months, or optimally, the the first 12 months, cosleeping. Ultimately, whether your baby sleeps in her own room, sleeps in your bed, or in a cot in your room, is your choice. However, it is a decision you need to both be comfortable with.
Yes, this is generally a decision that you as the mother would make. However, it’s important to discuss your partner’s feeling on this matter as well. In some cases, the decision to breastfeed or not may be taken out of your hands, due to ill health or low milk supply, but true milk insufficiencies are rare. Again, this may be a decision you will want to make post-birth, but it is still worth having a discussion about this now.
This is a biggie. In some cases, the decision may be related to culture or religion, and a moot point. However, in other cases, this may be a decision based on health and hygiene, as research shows that circumcision promotes both of these. However, others feel that they don’t want their baby to go through what they may consider an unnecessary and painful procedure, or that it may impact his sexual pleasure later on in life. However, more often than not, this is based on your partner himself, whether he has been circumcised and his views on the matter.
If you and your partner grew up in the same faith, then this may be a no-brainer. However, you may be of different cultures or faiths, and you may not have any spiritual beliefs at all. This is a very important discussion to have, potentially even before you get married as this can be a major stumbling block in any relationship. You may decide to expose your child to both religions, and allow her to make her own decision when she is older. One parent may have stronger views on religion than the other, which would guide the decision. Either way, make sure that you are united in your plan.
Have you discussed who will look after your baby? Will one of you give up work and be a stay-at-home parent, will you employ a childminder, have a parent or family member look after your baby or use a daycare facility? This decision is more often than not reliant on your financial circumstances and your support structure. This is a major debate and can be a potential stumbling block, particularly if you are passionate about your career and your partner wants you to be at home, as this can lead to resentment. This can be a heated topic, so try and be calm and rational when discussing all your options. Take time to discuss work/home balance and what you can both do to achieve this. Ultimately the decision you make will be the best for your baby, as you will feel happy and fulfilled, and your baby well-cared for, as long as you are both in agreement as to what is best for the family.
It’s vital to discuss discipline techniques you will use as early as possible, and come to an agreement on what will work for you and your child. Some parents tend to follow the same discipline structure as how they themselves were raised, while others will go the complete opposite route. Research and discuss each age and stage of your child and what you believe (together) is the best way to discipline your child that you both agree on.
Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday.