How Dads Can Help With Sleep Training: Father’s Day Special Edition
“How can Dads help with sleep training?” is a question my sleep coaching clients ask me A LOT. When baby arrives, Dads oftentimes feel a little left out and like they can’t do much to help. I remember my husband sharing these feelings with me when our boys were newborns.
Many Dads want to be involved but feel like they can’t or they don’t know what to do. If the baby is nursing, oftentimes the little one will find more comfort being in Mom’s arms. Sometimes Dad doesn’t feel confident in his abilities to take care of his infant. This can leave him feeling unsure of how to help.
In honor of Father’s Day, we are sharing our top 5 tips on how Dads can help with sleep training
Dad-led Sleep Training
When I share with families that I recommend Dad takes the lead on sleep training, some Dads groan!
Seriously though, most Dads are grateful that they have an important job. They are happy that they can support their exhausted wives/partners, and support their babies in learning how to sleep.
Why do I make this recommendation?
Simply put, it makes the process easier on everyone in the family, especially for Mom and baby.
During the sleep training process, with your pediatrician’s guidance, oftentimes we are eliminating nighttime feeds that are a habit but aren’t medically necessary. Too many unnecessary night feeds can fragment a baby’s sleep; cause multiple night wakings and keep your little one in an overtired state.
Whereas Mom is the primary feeding source frequently, it can make it much harder if she is leading the sleep training. Imagine if you were in Vegas at the all-night buffet and were on a diet. It would be tough to hang out there and stay consistent with your diet, right? Same situation here.
Sleep can be confusing. Sleep training is challenging. No matter which method parents choose, our children will be upset with the change. It is normal and developmentally appropriate for children to protest change. I don’t really like change myself sometimes!
It is uncomfortable to hear our babies fuss or cry. Unfortunately, there are tears no matter which method we chose. If both parents are teaming up, sharing the responsibility, and supporting each other emotionally, it makes the process easier and lightens some of the emotional load for Mom.
Sleep deprivation usually affects the entire family. Neither parent will be functioning well if one of them is sleep deprived. There is a reason that sleep deprivation is a form of torture!
This goes right along with teamwork!
If you are reading this, you are likely interested in sleep training or figuring out if sleep training is right for your family.
Once you’ve both made the decision to sleep train you’ve got to stay committed to following the sleep plan and staying consistent.
Don’t sabotage each other and the process by being inconsistent. Consistency is the #1 predictor of sleep training success. Inconsistencies confuse children and result in more tears and ultimately it can stall or halt your progress.
If you are holding each other accountable and supporting each other, you are more likely to stay consistent. Pinky promise each other you will stay consistent!
Give Mom Time
Given that sleep training is emotional, it can be helpful if Mom leaves the house, especially at first, while the baby is learning to settle into sleep.
A trip to Target, a yoga class, or a glass of wine with friends is a great way to give Mom a break and distract her during this emotional time.
Some Moms who are especially sensitive to crying may even leave the house for a few nights to stay with parents or check into a hotel.
If Dad can give Mom this time, it can make this process easier on her and make it easier to stay consistent. Once she reintegrates into bedtime and at night, she’ll be better rested and your little one will be starting to sleep better.
By bedtime, many Moms are exhausted and completely touched out. Having Dad help with the bedtime routine can be a huge relief and give Mom some much-needed downtime.
I recommend that after the baby nurses or eats, Dad takes over and finishes the rest of the bedtime routine. It can be wonderfully connecting to give baby a bath, get your little one dressed, read books and sing songs. You and your baby will come to treasure this time. And Mom will appreciate the opportunity to relax or take care of things that are on her to-do list.
Feed Baby A Bottle
For nursing Moms, once the breastfeeding relationship is established, it can be incredibly helpful to introduce a bottle. If you are planning to return to work or leave the house without your little one, it is important that your little one accepts a bottle.
Dad can really help with teaching the baby to take a bottle. Many breastfed babies want milk from the source if Mom is feeding them. They will accept a bottle from Dad if Mom isn’t there to nurse.
This means for both breastfed or formula-fed babies, Dad can feed a bottle during the bedtime routine or in the middle of the night. This helps break a feeding to sleep association and gives Mom extra rest.
Let’s here it for you, Dad! Helping your child to learn to love sleep is a BIG job and you are teaching your little one an important life skill. Thanks for loving on your family and supporting your partner! Your help is a huge contributor to creating a happy, healthy and well-rested family.
If your family needs help coming up with a plan or more suggestions on how Dads can help with sleep training, we’d love to guide you on your journey to healthy sleep habits. The first step is to fill out our contact form to sign up for a free intro call where we talk about working together.
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