So often when I first meet with families who are looking for my help with gentle sleep training, I’m asked exactly how dad can help to improve the sleep situation for the family. Quite often, many dads feel a little side lined, especially when baby is being breastfed and all the night feeds are seemingly under control. But even breastfed babies can benefit from the father’s input during gentle sleep training, and the the role of dads is vital for many families. This week we’re looking at ways dads can help with gentle sleep training, and exactly how important they really are.
Team work works
The only way to get through sleep training, even at its gentlest, is with team work. If you can enlist the help of someone else to see you through the long nights, then do it. For most families this means both parents roll up their sleeves and get stuck in. Mother and father are equally as important here, and that is what I tell every single family that I see.
So often, the issue of sleep is seen as the mother’s job, and the reason for this is usually down to the fact that it’s mum who takes the maternity leave from work. That said, the issue of sleep (and the lack of it) is an issue that affects everyone, and there is just no way that both parents can function well if one of them is seriously sleep deprived. So this really does need to be a shared issue, and dads really do need to take on at least some of the responsibility too.
Breastfed babies need dad’s input
So many families will tell me that baby is breastfed, so the night wakings are mum’s job. But actually, this doesn’t need to be the case. Breastfed babies who are waking out of habit and who are fed back to sleep out of habit hugely benefit from dad’s input at bedtime. Dads are more able to go in and calm babies when they wake, soothing them back to sleep without a feed. Not only does this give mum a break, but it helps baby to grow in confidence when it comes to falling asleep without a feed.
Dads can take charge of bottle feeding
If your baby takes a bottle, dads can take on one or two night feeds to give mum a break. Whether it’s expressed breast milk or formula milk, the fact that bottle feeding can be a shared duty means that night wakings can be shared equally, especially at weekends.
Dads provide that shoulder to cry on
There’s no two ways about it. Even gentle sleep training can be hard. Consistency is key, and once you start you need to finish. For some babies, depending on their temperament, this can be a long drawn out process. Sometimes we just need someone to vent to. Someone to share the load with. Someone to hold you as you cry! That’s ok. That’s what partners are for, and the one thing that dad can always do.
Dads can be part of the bedtime routine
A good bedtime routine is essential for good baby sleep, and this is something that dad can really get involved with. Lots of dads look forward to bath time and studies have found that dads who read to their children experience significantly lower stress levels too. The added bonus of a dad who is hands on at bed time is the fact that when it comes time for mum’s night out with friends, everyone is confident that bedtime is still going to go ahead without any hitches!
Dads can share the load with every single wake up
Even when baby is breastfed, dads who really want to get involved can do so with every single wake up. I’ve seen couples who work it with mum feeding baby, then returning to bed while dad burps, changes and settles. The key is to find the routine that works for you, and keep it going when the time comes for gentle sleep training.