You heard it ladies! For months you have been getting up with babe (because the only way she will settle is for mom!) and while, yes, dad has had compromised sleep as well (in most cases) you may feel as though the onus has been completely placed on you to get up with your babe throughout the night - not to mention the physical toll on your body after having grown and delivered and now nourishing your child 24/7. Now we get to focus on how dad can actually be a big help in a) establishing great sleep habits from the start or b) during the sleep training learning process.
Before going on with this blog post, let me first recognize a few types of dads that we are always happy to talk about:
1. The dad that contacts us himself looking for some help for his family
2. The dad that has ALWAYS been involved in night wakings with his family
3. The dad that would LOVE to be involved but feels that he cant be because babe will only breastfeed to settle
4. The dad that has never been involved but shows up to our consultation ready and willing to learn and wanting to help
To these dads: you are rock stars!
We work with many mamas that do not have night time support, whos partners are not involved in our work to make sleep better and/or they will not even "let" mama hire some professional help to get things under control. Now lets be clear - I get it. This was my situation as well. I don't want to shame any of you and I don't want to make any ladies feel bad if this is your baby daddy. If this works for your family - great! It takes a toll on mom for sure, but I understand that dad is often working full time and it is not "ideal" for him to be up at all hours when he has to be up in the morning and go to work. I totally get it (though may not agree with it!). But for those men that tackle it all - good on you!
Perhaps because I had 100% of the night time responsibility as my daughter's dad worked at 5:30am every day and it broke me down into a million little dark pieces, I tend to pat these dads on the back a little extra and remind these mamas how lucky they are to have this support. I have to say though, this doesn't reflect the type of father my daughter has and I'm sure it doesn't for you guys either! I took this role on myself. As a first time mom it made sense to me that I am home and he has to work and so I would be happy to wake with her throughout the night. Well, little did I know, this decision would take me to a very dark place of chronic sleep deprivation.
Back to the point:
A) Establishing good sleep habits from the start - Dad can really help establish good sleep habits for the breastfeeding mom. Of course he can help with a bottle fed baby as well, but for a breastfed baby, dad can not feed babe even if he wanted to! If mom has go tend to babe for every single wake up then chances are babe is being fed for every single wake up (even if they were just fed an hour ago). This often prevents babe from learning other ways to be comforted back to sleep. If dad goes in, let's state the obvious - baby will not be breastfed. Dad can hold/rock baby or depending on the age of the baby he can just comfort babe in the crib. This can really help prevent a feed/sleep association (which is our most common sleep issue that can be super tricky to break).
B) During the sleep training process - Same as above, if we are pulling night feeds and teaching babe different ways to self soothe to sleep then it can be super helpful for dad to take on the night wakings for a few nights. Babe may give dad a run for his money for the first couple nights but once she realizes that mom isn't coming to feed every time she wakes up, she will eventually settle back down faster and those night wakings will start to fade away all together. And of course, if your babe is bottle fed, we still encourage dad to get involved in this process because regardless of how your babe is fed, it is a lot easier on both parents to trade off for each wake, or take turns doing bedtime. Your child will eventually pick up on the consistencies with both parents and learn that this is how they go to sleep for anyone!
As always, if anyone needs some additional support navigating the complexities of infant or toddler sleep, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to chat with you about your little one and/or our services and how we can help.
Natasha & Kelsey