Should dads wake up with baby at night for feedings? If moms are the only ones handling nighttime feedings, dads may need to wake up too. Here’s why.
Those middle of the night wake ups were the worst. The constant crying, the inability to soothe the baby back to sleep, scrambling to zip those pajamas all while the baby is shrieking, then several more minutes of breastfeeding and burping… it was getting too much.
Sleep deprivation during the newborn months is already a challenge as it is, but during nighttime wake ups, it also brought out the worst in me. It was the time of the day (or night) when I least enjoyed being a mom.
Thankfully my husband shouldered half of that burden. He changed diapers while I breastfed, and we’d take turns trying to soothe the baby when he’d get fussy.
When we were both out on maternity and paternity leave, the decision for him to wake up at nights as well was a no-brainer. After all, we’d both be home the next day doing nearly the same tasks.
But with him returning to work before I did, would he continue waking up in the middle of the night with me?
Should dads wake up with baby even if he has to work?
Middle of the night wake ups are unique to each family. With work the next day, dads now had appointments and tasks that are more difficult to manage sleep-deprived. Meanwhile, moms would be home with the baby, with no time-specific duties or even people to interact with (heck, we wouldn’t even need to get dressed).
Would that mean then that dad should still wake up for middle of the night feedings, even with work looming the next day?
In our case, he did. Here’s why:
For both pregnancies with my singleton and later, my twins, I couldn’t do it all by myself. Physical exhaustion aside, sleep deprivation was a huge challenge for me. Having his support and a sense of teamwork did wonders for my morale.
As much as I acknowledge the benefits of breastfeeding, I still didn’t like that I was the only one that can do so. Knowing this, my husband helped me as much as he can so that whatever burdens crop up don’t always fall on me.
We’re a team when he wakes up with me for nighttime feedings. Every little bit helps, from re-swaddling, to changing diapers, to burping them. Doing night duty alone can feel isolating that every bit of support helps.
Staying home with the baby is hard
It’s easy for stay-at-home parents to feel unappreciated because they were “just at home.” And I get it. One of the biggest reasons dads avoid nighttime feedings is work. He needs to be at work by a certain time while mom stays home with the baby (and could rest at home).
Still, I’m betting there are tons of parents who agree that caring for babies can be harder than paid jobs. It’s no joke when they say parenting can be one of the most difficult and stressful jobs. Parenting—even if unpaid—is still a job.
For dad to be able to sleep through the night signals that his job is important than mom’s. In some cases, this is true—you’d want your pilot or a surgeon to function on a full night of sleep. But in many cases, caring for the baby is just as difficult, if not even more so, than our day job.
Dads are more involved with child care
Dads are more likely to be involved in the baby’s care when he participates in nighttime duties. He knows that the baby prefers the pacifier, or that the baby needs a special kind of swaddle to fall asleep.
Both parents are on the same team, doing the same work.
It’s nice to have an equal “co-worker” who can brainstorm how to soothe a fussy baby in the middle of the night, or pull his weight with washing baby bottles and pump parts.
When it doesn’t always work
With all the benefits of dad waking up for middle of the night wake ups, moms feel less resentful and instead part of a team. But is there ever a time when dads don’t need to wake up at nights?
There’s no simple answer to this question, and each family is different. Maybe mom can function much better with five hours of sleep than dad, who needs eight, or dad’s job is too challenging for him to be sleep deprived.
Other moms also feel no need nor resentment should dads with baby wake up or not. “I have to get up anyway—why wake my husband if he doesn’t have to?” is a common reason moms don’t mind when dads don’t wake up for nighttime feedings.
Some families also have a clear understanding and division of duties. He focuses on bringing in income, she focuses on raising the kids. (Check out an article I wrote about whether you and your partner have equal parenting duties.)
Still, even other couples customize their own nighttime strategy. Many parents take turns—mom does the feedings one night while dad would does the next. Some take shifts—dad will handle the 9pm to 3am shift, while mom does the 3am to 9am shift.
If you’re exhausted while your partner sleeps through the night, or you wonder how to get dad to help with baby at night, consider a change in strategy.
No one should feel under-appreciated or harbor resentment. Both should feel like they’re a team, whether they wake up for feedings, go to work, or stay home with the baby.
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How do you handle nighttime feedings in your household? Should dads wake up with baby for nighttime feedings too? Let us know in the comments!
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