I'm about to make a bit of a generalization here…
It has been my experience that in your everyday mom/dad relationship, the one parent who is handling the bulk of baby-related nighttime responsibility is almost always the Mom. Now, before you go accusing me of sexism of stereotyping, I’d just like to point out that there’s a reason this happens.
As a sleep consultant, I don’t get called into situations where both parents are contributing equally, and where baby’s not relying on any external props, and everyone sleeps soundly through the night. I’m usually contacted by parents who are having issues getting their babies to sleep, 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.
That's a big problem in a sleep-deprived household where the baby is waking up six times a night demanding to be nursed or fed back to sleep.
Mom is feeling a bit hostile over having to sit up with the baby, watching Dad sleep without even the slightest disturbance. Dad is feeling a bit powerless to help in this department, and ends up feeling attacked for something he has no control over. Most dads would LOVE to be able to participate more in the care of their little ones.
Even when Dad makes an attempt to work on sleep training, or take over settling the baby down, I see Mom shooting out of bed as soon as the baby shrieks – or, even worse, standing in the doorway correcting and critiquing him as he tries to soothe the baby. Does any of this sounds familiar? This probably all sounds a bit hard to hear, but I have some good news for both of you: Sleep training goes better if Dad takes the lead!
It's true, I promise. Here are three reasons to trust me on this.
1. Babies Don't Demand to Nurse Their Dads
Your baby is stinkin' smart, and knows exactly where they need to latch to get a good drink of milk. They know that when Dad comes into their room at night, they aren't about to be nursed back to sleep. Because one of the biggest parts of sleep training is breaking the association between nursing and falling asleep, your baby will learn quicker and respond better when Dad is the one who comes into the room during the first few nights of learning to fall asleep independently.
2. Dad Will Feel Super Empowered
The vast majority of dads 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. They may not be able to give birth and breastfeed, but they can certainly teach their baby their first big important life skill: learning to fall asleep on their own. When they see the success and realized they've taught their infant something major, they feel a real sense of pride in their baby and themselves and see how important their role really is.
3. Dads Like to Fix Things
Okay, okay, another generalization, but most dads like to fix things. They see themselves as protectors of their families and when presented with a problem, they like to see if they can provide a solution and be the hero (“I just wish he would LISTEN sometimes and not always try to solve my problem!” Sound familiar?). He just needs to be given the right tools (sleep consulting!) and left to work on the problem. After taking his wife and baby from being up all night crying from exhaustion, to being happy and healthy and well-rested, he'll definitely feel like a hero and this is a great thing for a dad who just wants what's best for his people.
Whenever I tell the couples I work with that Dad will be taking point on this one, Mom lets out a little whoop and teases Dad about how much fun he's going to have getting up all night. And yet when night comes, she's up and anxious to “help” with the process!
If Dad's going to get involved and fix this problem swiftly and effectively, he will have to find his own rhythm with his baby. I know it's hard, Mom, to give up control and let your partner take the wheel when it comes to the moment of truth. Dad might be the magical solution to your baby's sleep issues, if you let him take over.
Most of my clients see dramatic improvements to their baby's sleep in just a couple nights, so you won't have to control yourself for long. Won't it be amazing to not only sleep through the night, but also get to enjoy spending evenings with just your special someone again? What a gift you are giving to your whole family!