Many dads feel left out of the newborn experience, particularly when their babies are breastfed and the routine of feedings during the night appears to be under control.
However, once you’ve decided baby sleep training is the right step for your family, one silver lining that comes out of it is that dads have a newfound opportunity to now play a key role.
As your friendly baby sleep consultant, I want to cover this week the topic of the role of dads in sleep training.
But before we even start, I want to first preface with something that might sound obvious, which is: in sleep training, me, the Baby Sleep Consultant, the Moms & Dads - we are a TEAM!
I stress this because often the question is asked of me: "Should mom sleep train or dad?". And my answer is always: if possible, both parents should participate in the process.
So Dads, if being hands on just isn’t your thing, it’s fine. But you can do many other things. Most importantly, provide emotional support to your wife. I’d be the first to tell you from personal experience that sleep training isn’t just physically exhausting, it's also a drain on your mental state.
I find that when both parents are involved in the process in some way or form, shouldering the load together, the sleep training process goes more smoothly with less struggles.
With that out of the way, let’s now talk some specifics about how dads can contribute to their baby’s sleep experience:
1. Dad's help is needed for breastfed babies.
I sometimes find that breastfed babies respond better when dad is the one to attend to their night wakings. This is because lactating mothers smell strongly of milk, and babies are that much likely to want to latch to get back to sleep and so cry loudly for it.
For dads- this just isn’t an option. The other benefit of dads doing this, is that it allows mom to get some much-needed rest which is so important for breast-milk production. Win win for all involved!
2. Dads can take care of bottle feeding.
The dad can bottle-feed the baby once or twice during the night. Whether you use expressed breast milk or formula, bottle-feeding is a task that can be shared. And if mom’s still getting up to pump, then at least she can be up for a shorter period of time, just focusing on that pumping whilst you handle baby’s feed.
Another option to consider is splitting the nights. I find this works well for working dads. Mom can take the early morning, whilst dad takes the late night. This way both parents get longer stretches of uninterrupted sleep whilst still ensuring their baby is attended to.
3. Dads and moms can tag team to offer their baby comfort during the sleep training process.
Baby sleep training can be difficult, as I alluded to before. Depending on how your baby is, the falling back to sleep process could take a very long time. If it gets too much for mom to hear baby cry for that long, dad should then help by stepping in to take over.
This is a crucial role to play. The last thing we want is for your baby to cry for extended periods and then give him/her the sleep prop we were trying to wean him/her off. Doing this only teaches your baby to cry for long, since they know holding out will get them what they want.
4. Dads can be involved with the bedtime routine.
This is an added bonus! When it's time for mom's night out with friends, a hands-on dad at bedtime can be of great assistance. Even if mom is absent, bedtime will proceed without a hitch.
And there you have it! It's not terribly difficult stuff. It’s a matter of choosing what feels right for you, Dad, and then committing to it.
Are you still pondering "how dads can help with sleep training?", and “should both parents do bedtime?”. In case your concerns persist, don't be shy, get in touch and I’ll be happy to address your queries.