So whom would you say is the parent that gets the bulk of nighttime responsibility for getting up with your child? I know what you’re thinking…and yes, in my experience, it’s usually mom.
I don’t want to stereotype, but I usually don’t get calls where both parents share all the nighttime duties and everyone is sleeping like a baby all night. I usually get calls from exhausted parents who are having issues getting their babies to sleep and usually have to have something done to them to get them back to sleep at night, otherwise known as a prop. The most common of which usually is not Dad’s doing…
I’m usually contacted by parents who, and that’s almost always because baby’s got an external sleep prop that they use to get back to sleep when they wake in the night. And the most common prop I see, by far, is nursing, which pretty much leaves Dad out of the equation.
Now, this is a problem for a couple of reasons. Obviously, if baby’s waking up six times a night and demanding Mom come in to nurse her back to sleep, that’s taxing on mother and baby. But there’s another person who tends to suffer in this scenario, and that’s Dad. It might be hard to imagine, some of you may be reading this in the middle of the night while baby is having a party, and you know your husband is in dream land in the next room.
But let’s not wish him to share in our pain just yet.
Dads, the vast majority of them anyway, want to be great dads. They want to have an active role in bringing up their kids, and they love it when they feel like they’re succeeding in that role. But because Mom is the one with the magical breast milk, touch and smell, Dad often feels powerless to help out in the sleep department, which means Mom’s up every time baby cries, and Dad, while sympathetic, can’t do much but go back to sleep.
This can lead to some hostility from a sleep deprived Mom, who feels like she’s doing more than her share, and some defensiveness from Dad, who gets to feeling attacked for something he has no control over.
But here’s the good news for both of you…
If you’ve decided to give sleep training a try, I often recommend that Dad takes the lead… at least for the first few nights. That’s right! Go sleep it off, Mom. Dad’s taking point on this one. So when it comes to breaking the association between sucking (bottle, pacifier or breast) and falling asleep, baby tends to learn quicker and respond better when Dad comes into the room during the first few nights of baby learning to fall asleep independently.
Here’s the funny thing. Whenever I drop this little tidbit on couple I’m working with, Mom lets out a big ‘yeeaaah’ and teases Dad about how he’s much fun he’s going to have getting up six times in the night.
But then, night one, as soon as baby starts to cry, Mom shoots out of bed and goes straight into baby’s room. Or even more regularly, Mom stands in the doorway instructing Dad on the right way to settle Baby back down, and corrects him every step of the way.
I have actually sent full-grown women to their rooms during overnight support packages.
If Dad’s going to get involved, he and Baby have to find their own rhythm, and Mom has to be able to let go of a little control. And as much as moms always say they’ll have no problem letting their husbands take the wheel, when it comes down to the moment of truth, many women want to jump back in.
So remember, Dad might just be the magical solution to your baby’s sleep issues, but give him a chance, he might just surprise you. Most of my clients see dramatic improvements in their baby’s sleep in just a couple of nights, so you won’t have to worry.
After that, you and your partner will have the evenings back to yourselves, and your whole family can get back to sleeping through the night.
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Christine Stevens has been recognized as one of the top sleep consultants in the U.S.
Christine Stevens is a Sleep Consultant for exhausted parents who want a solution so their whole family can sleep a full night of sleep. The want to reclaim their beds, their spouse and their sanity but they don’t know how to begin. Through customized plans and personalized support, parents get a predictable sleep schedule and well rested family.
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