Wondering whether dads should help with the baby, even if he works and you stay at home? See 3 compelling reasons why dads should wake up for night feeds.
The middle of the night wake ups were the worst during the early days.
The constant crying, the inability to soothe a screaming baby back to sleep, scrambling to zip those pajamas. Add to that several more minutes of breastfeeding and burping—it’s enough to dread those wails that jolt you awake at night.
Lack of sleep during the newborn months brought out the worst in me during nighttime feedings. It was the time of the day (or night) when I least enjoyed being a mom.
The one thing that kept me sane? My husband shouldered many of those duties.
He was the one who’d get out of bed when the baby cried and handle diaper changes. The one who’d hand the baby to me to breastfeed, just so I wouldn’t have to get out of bed myself. The one I’d hand the baby to for burping after each session and putting him back down in the crib. And when the baby was inconsolable, he was up right alongside me, either soothing him to sleep or researching tips online to calm him down.
All while he had to wake up the next day to go to work.
Now, when we were both out on maternity and paternity leave, the decision for him to wake up at nights 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, I was more than grateful that he continued to wake up in the middle of the nights with me.
Why dads should wake up for night feeds
With work the next day, many dads have tasks that are more difficult to manage when sleep-deprived. Meanwhile, moms are home with the new baby, with no time-specific duties or even people to interact with (we wouldn’t even need to get dressed).
Despite these circumstances, both mom and dad benefit when they wake up to tend to the baby throughout the night, in one way or another.
Read below to learn why:
1. You develop a deeper sense of teamwork
Sometimes you just can’t do it all yourself. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation can take a toll, both physically and mentally. But having your partner’s support and a sense of teamwork can work wonders for your morale.
You see, as much as I wanted to stay motivated to keep breastfeeding, I still didn’t like that I was the only one that could do so. Staying awake for several minutes at a time, all throughout the day and night, left me with little freedom.
Knowing this, my husband took action in ways he could, so that whatever burdens cropped up didn’t always fall on me. For instance, since I was the only one who could breastfeed, he changed diapers, swaddled, and burped the baby. During the day, he prepared meals and snacks.
We were working as a team, doing what we can. Every little bit truly helped, if only to make a sleepless night feel less isolating.
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2. 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. One of the biggest reasons parents may not help with the baby at night is because they work the next day. They need to be at work by a certain time while moms stay home with the baby (and could potentially rest at home).
Perhaps the baby cries with daddy at night, leaving both of you feeling defeated and sleep-deprived, instead of bonded over a common mission. Maybe you’re simply arguing over night feeds so much, you’ve decided to take the task on your own.
Still, I’m sure we can all agree that caring for a baby can be much harder than paid work. It’s no joke when they say parenting can be one of the most difficult and stressful responsibilities. Parenting—even if unpaid—is still a job.
For dad to be able to sleep through the night signals that his job is more important than mom’s, which may not be necessarily true.
Now, in certain cases, it is. Some jobs need to be done on a full night of sleep for safety’s sake, for instance. Other dads might need to perform well just to keep their jobs. 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 our day jobs. For dad to wake up for nighttime feedings shows that both your jobs—paid or unpaid—are important to the family.
See why parenting is harder than a typical job.
3. Dads are more involved with child care
The more opportunities dad has to be with the baby, the more he’ll learn about his child and better bond with him. And being involved during nighttime duties is no exception.
For instance, he’ll learn which pacifier the baby likes, that he sleeps with a certain swaddle, or that holding him against his chest calms him down.
He won’t know any of these if he doesn’t have the opportunity to discover them for himself.
He’s on the same team and doing similar work, instead of asking 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.
In other words, you 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 changing diapers. You’re in this together.
Read why dads are co-parents, not babysitters.
How both parents can work together
Feeling tired and resentful because your husband doesn’t help with the baby at night? Here are a few ways to get both of you on the same page:
- Communicate. Don’t expect to read each other’s mind! Find an opportunity where you’re both calm and in a good mood. Then, discuss your feelings and needs, focusing on how you feel without attacking one another.
- Be explicit with what you need. Once you’ve addressed your feelings, be clear about what you want from each other.
- Find a schedule that works for both of you. Customize and learn how to share night feeds. Many parents take turns—mom does the feedings one night while dad does the next. Others take shifts—one handles the 9pm to 3am night shift, while the other does the 3am to 9am morning shift. Sharing night feed duties doesn’t always have to be both parents waking up each time the baby cries. Both of you get a little break.
- Come up with alternative ways for both of you to be involved. If one parent waking up for nighttime feedings just isn’t an option, find other ways he can get involved. He can take over bath times, prepare meals, bottle feed during the day, or wake up on the weekends.
Even if you breastfeed and stay home with the baby while your husband works, dad should still wake up for nighttime feedings.
For one thing, you develop a deeper sense of teamwork, knowing that you’re in this together. Using the “I’m just at home” excuse no longer cuts it, especially as we all know how difficult caring for a baby can be. And finally, dad is more involved in the household, instead of someone you simply delegate tasks to.
And with the tips you learned on how to get both of you on board for nighttime feeds, you’ll soon feel like you’re part of a team.
Get more tips:
- How to Start Night Weaning and End Middle-of-the-Night Feedings
- How to Survive the First Few Weeks with a Newborn and Toddler
- When Does Breastfeeding Stop Hurting?
- What to Do When Your Baby Wants to Breastfeed Constantly
- How to Get Your Baby to Adjust Using a Newborn Schedule
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