It was historically common for dads to justify not getting up at night because “I work during the day.” Sadly, this excuse has not vanished from our society. But this stance belittles the job of the parent staying at home, can hamper a baby’s adjustment to sleeping through the night, and create long-term challenges with the father’s relationship with their partner.
Men of yore did not get up with the baby. Frankly, these fathers didn’t interact much with their children, aside from seeing themselves as the head of the household and discipline. The traditional fatherhood role was aloof, which was unfortunate for all involved. These days there is a plethora of research proving a dad’s involvement with his kids is vital. But does that include getting up at night?
Working dads should get up with their babies. Getting up with a baby strengthens the bond between father and child and reduces post-natal depression and marital resentment. In addition, dads are often essential for providing breastfed babies the confidence to sleep without a feed.
Related Reading: Why Does my Husband Want Nothing to Do With Our Unborn Baby?
7 Reasons Dads Should Get Up With The Baby
Parenting is a commitment that doesn’t shut itself off when the sun goes down. Everyone is tired. Raising kids properly takes tremendous dedication and physical energy. But to foster a lasting relationship with your children and spouse, everyone needs to pitch in with the more challenging tasks.
So, here are seven reasons why dads need to get up with their babies.
1. Getting Up At Night Strengthens Dad And Baby Bond
The has been growing awareness of the benefits of dads forming a bond with their children. But in the past, it was believed this could be accomplished by dads interacting with their kids during the “fun” times, such as bedtime stories or playing games. But observations show that a full bond requires being there during the tougher times.
Also, recent evidence has shown it isn’t only moms whose bodies change and adapt to parenthood. For a long time, science was aware that the birthing parent’s body experienced chemical changes after having a baby, including producing crucial chemicals to produce milk and bond.
But now, we know dads’ bodies also change with contact with their babies. But this crucial chemical bonding doesn’t just occur during the “fun” moments, but with skin-to-skin contact and soothing the infant.
2. Dads Play An Essential Role In Baby’s Development
Dads play a huge role in a baby’s cognitive development, including learning language skills. Babies are learning all the time. When dads limit their contact with their children to only covenant hours, they restrict their vital influence on their child’s development. Soothing babies at night is another opportunity for the child to hear the dad’s voice and learn.
3. Dads Can Settle Breastfed Babies Easier
Babies don’t always wake up because they are hungry or need a change. Waking becomes a habit, and their favorite drug is milk. Sending in the breastfeeding parent to calm a not-hungry baby is like sending a dealer to encourage the addict that they don’t need a fix right now. The drug (milk) is so close; why resist even if not hungry?
Thus, leaving the nighttime soothing exclusively to breastfeeding parent will prologue a baby’s poor sleep habits. However, child sleep consultants have found that when dads go in to calm a not-hungry breastfed baby at night, the child will go back to sleep faster. They have also found it provides the baby confidence that they can return to sleep without needing a milk fix.
4. Working Dads Are Not The Only Parents Working
Parenting is work. Babies and household needs don’t allow a stay-at-home parent the luxury of sleeping whenever or resting. In fact, unlike a parent working out of the home, stay-at-home parents rarely have the luxury of going to the toilet in privacy.
Thus, when a parent uses the “I work” excuse, they are saying to the other parent, “I don’t think what you do brings value to the home.” Devaluing a partner’s role in the family does not lend itself to a solid and lasting relationship.
5.Sleep Deprivation Is Like Operating Drunk
There is no way around it; parenting leads to sleep deprivation. But it is essential to share or alternate the pain, as sleep deprivation can lead to being as impaired as a drunk. Nobody wants to hire a drunk caregiver. Thus, stay-at-home parents shouldn’t be forced to try to meet their baby and household needs in a constant state of mental impairment.
6. Sleep Deprivation Contributes To PPD
Postpartum depression severely impacts the birthing parent’s health and creates difficult circumstances for the entire family. Sleep deprivation makes PPD worse. For the health of the person suffering postpartum depression and the family’s well-being, dads must take some baby night shifts.
7. Dads Who Don’t Get Up With Baby Create Resentment
Few people regret becoming parents, but it is hard on marriages and partnerships. When one parent gets all the sleep, resentment grows, and not all marriages survive. A healthy marriage means sharing the load, both the good and the challenging, and this includes being part of raising a child no matter the hour.
3 Ways Dad Can Get Up With Baby
Families all have different challenges and needs. Thus, how parents split the nighttime parenting will depend on each family’s circumstances.
1. Everyone Gets Up Together
Some parents get up together. They find that despite them both lacking sleep, being together makes it less lonely and frustrating and strengthens bonds between parents and child and the parents with each other. Some families say their most beautiful early-parenting memories were formed in these wee hours of the night.
However, other parents have found that getting up simultaneously results in increased irritability and arguments. Thus, many families find a type of alternating schedule a better fit.
2. Create A Weekly Night Care Schedule
Some parents create a schedule. This can be drawn up in many ways.
- Some parents do it every other night.
- Other families do a 3-day / 4-day split, then reverse it.
- Others draw up a weekly schedule, respecting each other’s “I must have sleep” days
What is essential when drawing up a schedule is understanding that both parents need sleep. Regardless of whether they are earning an income, both parents play a crucial role in the family. Nobody can do their job well if they never get a decent amount of sleep.
Thus, when framing why a day is essential to you for a full night’s rest. Be mindful not to put down the other parent’s contribution to the family. Hear them and understand that there needs to be “give and take”, including who gets to sleep.
3. Dividing The Night Into Blocks
Other parents find blocking the night into sections an effective strategy. For example, the stay-at-home parent might go to bed early, around 7:30 or 8 pm, and is “off” until midnight. The other parent is “on duty” until midnight, gets a sleep block between midnight-6 am, then takes over until going to work.
The blocking method means each parent has certain hours to block off for uninterrupted sleep. Some even sleep in a separate room during their sleep block to ensure they get the necessary rest.
Usually, the parent with the longer sleep mid-week block will get up more often on the nights they don’t have to go to a day job in the morning. This makes the arrangement fairer.
Parenting has come a long way from historical social norms. We now know that dads have a much more valuable and crucial role in their children’s development beyond providing money.
However, the bond between father and child shouldn’t be developed just when it is convenient. There is much to be gained for a dad in his relationship with his baby and his partner by getting up at night.
After earning his Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto, Stuart gained experience working with families in community mental health settings and in the child protection sector. Since becoming a father himself, Stuart now works in private practice offering psychotherapy services. FatherResource is an opportunity for Stuart to share what he learns on his journey as a father with a larger audience.