Why Dads Should Wake Up for Night Feeds

If your baby wakes up throughout the night to feed, should your partner get up as well if you’re breastfeeding, or if he works the next day and you don’t? In this article, I’ll share 3 compelling reasons why dads should wake up for night feeds and how your family can make this work for everyone.

Why Dads Should Wake Up for Night Feeds

The lack of sleep during the newborn months is enough to make any sleep-deprived mom feel alone and isolated, despite having a partner on hand.

Maybe your husband doesn’t help with the baby because he works the next day. Perhaps he feels like he should sleep through the night while you wake up with the baby. He may feel especially justified if you breastfeed (since he can’t bottle-feed the baby anyway) or if you stay at home.

But as a breastfeeding mom, I still benefited from having my husband wake up for night feeds. Yep, even though he had to work the next day and I didn’t. Take a look at these compelling reasons why:

Husband Doesn't Help with Baby Because He Works

1. You develop a deeper sense of teamwork

Being new parents is challenging enough as it is—feeling like you’re on your own makes it even worse. Because sometimes, you just can’t do it all yourself. Worse, you’re not enjoying motherhood the way you thought you would.

One thing that can boost your morale? Having your partner’s support, particularly when you work as a team.

You may be the only one who can breastfeed the baby, but it’s because of that reason that you may need more support than ever. It’s not easy being isolated with the baby for several minutes at a time throughout the day and night.

By waking up alongside you, your partner can take action in ways he can so that all the burden doesn’t always fall on you. What are a few ways he can show up? He can:

  • Be the one to get the baby when she cries
  • Change the baby’s diapers
  • Swaddle the baby
  • Burp the baby after she’s done feeding
  • Put the baby back down in the baby
  • Soothe baby when she’s inconsolable
  • Research tips to calm the baby

You truly can work as a team, doing what each of you can. Every little bit can help, if only to make a sleepless night feel less isolating, especially when you have each other.

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2. Dad is more involved

The more opportunities your partner has to be with the baby, the more he’ll learn about his child and better bond with her. Being involved during nighttime duties is no exception.

For instance, he’ll learn which pacifier the baby likes, that she sleeps with a certain swaddle, or that holding her against his chest calms her down. He won’t know any of these if he doesn’t have the opportunity to discover them for himself.

And if the baby only wants mom, then that’s even more reason to get involved. Passing her onto you because you know how to soothe her better denies him the chance to learn what you had to learn.

He’s on the same team and doing similar work, instead of always having to ask you where you keep the burp cloths or which pajamas to put on the baby. You won’t feel like you’re constantly delegating instructions because he knows just as much about the baby’s needs.

You have an equal co-parent who can brainstorm how to soothe a fussy baby in the middle of the night or pull his weight with changing diapers. In other words, you’re in this together.

Baby Only Wants Mom

3. Staying home with the baby is hard work

It’s easy for stay-at-home parents to feel unappreciated because they’re “just at home.”

And I get it. Your partner needs to be at work by a certain time while you’re home with the baby (and could potentially rest as well). Still, I’m sure we can all agree that parenting is harder than many typical jobs, what with its difficult and stressful responsibilities. Even if unpaid, it’s still a job.

For dad to be able to sleep through the night signals that his job is more important than yours, which may not be necessarily true.

Now, there will be some exceptions. Some jobs need to be done on a full night of sleep for safety’s sake. Perhaps your partner needs to perform well at work just to keep his job. And maybe you can function better with five hours of sleep than your partner, who needs a full eight.

But often, caring for the baby is just as difficult, if not more so, than a typical day job. For dad to wake up for night feeds shows that both your jobs—paid or unpaid—are important to the family.

Frequently asked questions

Besides both parents waking up, are there other ways we can still support each other during night feeds?

Yes! Sharing night feed duties doesn’t always have to be both parents waking up each time the baby cries. Both of you can still get a little break and support each other.

For instance, you can handle feedings one night while he does the next (if you breastfeed, you may need to pump and store the milk). You can also take shifts—one handles the 9pm to 3am night shift while the other does the 3am to 9am morning shift.

My husband needs a full night of sleep for his job. What are other ways he can still be involved?

If waking up for nighttime feedings isn’t an option, there are still other ways he can get involved. For instance, he can handle the baby’s baths or prepare the family’s meals. Perhaps he can bottle-feed during the day or handle nighttime feedings on weekends.

The bottom line

Even if you breastfeed and stay home with the baby while your partner works, there are still many benefits for dad to wake up for nighttime feedings. And with the tips you learned, you’ll soon feel like you’re part of a team—especially with your partner on hand.

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  1. Christine says:

    My biggest struggle is that my husband works and I am a stay at home mom. I get to take a shower 3 times a week and grocery shop once a week. That’s the only me time. When my husband gets home he does give the baby his last bottle and put him to bed, if he gets home in time. Weekends are his time. If I want to do something, I get a how dare you look. Sleep is only important for him to get. A lot of times I just stay in the living room because I don’t want to disturb his 8 hours. When the baby cries he just turns off the monitor. When the alarm goes off he hits snooze for an hour, gets a shower every day, and does his thing. While I really am grateful to be able to stay at home, I feel like nothing more than a maid and nanny to him.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It sounds like you could use some help with the baby, or even acknowledgment or appreciation, for what you do. It might be that your husband’s expectations differ from yours (for instance, he believes in a clear division of duties whereas you want both of you to care for the baby when you’re both home). Having that support definitely makes a difference, even for morale.

      Perhaps talking to him about how you feel and agreeing on expectations can help. Hang in there, mama <3

  2. My biggest struggle would be receiving help from my husband. When we found out I was expecting, we came out with a plan. Once the baby was born we would take turns at night, each one of us getting rest. Nothing like that has happened. In the middle of the night I have to get up to feed the baby and change her diaper. I have to struggle, while he sleeps and says he has to rest because he has work. Okay, I get it. but I would also appreciate some help. Sometimes throughout the day on the weekends he just wants to sleep. Something I wish I could do as well but I can’t because I have to watch the baby. It’s stressful since this is a 2 way thing and it’s only going one way. I appreciate the times he does help me, but just as much as when he actually wants to help, I wish he would do that when he doesn’t do it could be a little easier on me.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It does make a huge difference to get support from our partners, especially in the middle of the night. This sounds like something to talk to him about, especially how you would appreciate his help and support even if he works. Because even though he’s out of the house or works for an income, tending to the baby can often be harder than many jobs as well.

      But yes, communicating is key. I wouldn’t rely on dropping hints or hoping for change without saying how you feel. You can designate certain tasks to each person so that there’s no confusion as to who does what. For instance, in the middle of the night, he can change diapers and burp, while you feed. Or you can alternate weekends where on Saturdays he gets to sleep while on Sundays you do too.

      I hope that helps Liz! Hang in there mama <3