Getting Your Partner Involved
At the risk of generalizing here, it’s been my experience that there’s usually one parent who handles the bulk of the nighttime responsibilities.
And that parent, in a man/woman relationship, is almost always 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.
Anyone who calls a sleep consultant in that situation either has money to burn, or has mistaken me for a dream interpreter.
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.
Now, this is a problem for a couple of reasons. Obviously, if baby’s waking up six times a night and demanding Mom come in to nurse her back to sleep, that’s taxing on mother and baby.
But there’s another person who tends to suffer in this scenario, and that’s Dad. It might be hard to imagine, if you’re currently reading this in the middle of the night with a baby hanging off your breast, listening to your husband snoring contentedly from the other room, but it’s true.
Dads, the vast majority of them anyway, 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.
But because Mom is the one with the magical breast milk, Dad often feels powerless to help out in the sleep department, which means Mom’s up every time baby cries, and Dad, while sympathetic, can’t do much but go back to sleep.
This can lead to some hostility from a sleep deprived Mom, who feels like she’s doing more than her share, and some defensiveness from Dad, who gets to feeling attacked for something he has no control over.