Tips for Involving Your Partner in Overnight Sleep Care
As a pediatric nurse practitioner and sleep consultant, one of the most common questions I receive is, "How can I involve my partner in bedtime and overnight sleep care?"
This is not surprising given that feeding a baby is quite time-consuming in those early days!
We know that breastfeeding is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (A.A.P.) for the first year of life, and if you are able to do, you'll quickly realize that your nights will look much different from your partner's!
So how can your partner also be involved in the overnight sleep care? And more importantly, why does it matter? The truth is that sleep care is important for dads and partners too!
Recent research tells us that early bonding with their infant is often a primary goal for new fathers (deMontigny, Larivière-Bastien, Gervais, St-Arneault, Dubeau, & Devault, 2018); however, some participants also described breastfeeding as a hindrance that delayed or affected the creation of this bond.
Given this data, here are some ways your partner can be helpful (during the day and overnight!) while also building a strong bond with your baby:
1. Practical support
Your partner can support you by cooking, cleaning, and caring for other children. Before the night begins, a partner can check to see if the breastfeeding partner has water and a snack nearby and to make sure diapers and wipes are easily accessible, Oh, and an egg sandwich waiting in the morning was always my favorite!
2. Newborn care after feeding
The logistics of a nighttime feeding include more than just the eating! Burping and changing the infant’s diaper after feeding are great tasks to get your partner involved. Especially since this time can add up!
3. Recognize infant hunger and sleep cues
Needs a nap
~ no longer focused
~ increasing crying
~ pulling at ears
~ clenched fists
~ red eyebrows
~ kicking legs
One of the best ways to improve overnight sleep is to prevent your baby from getting overtired during the day. Using the chart above, your partner can become an expert at identifying hunger and sleep cues and can support your baby to take appropriate naps and get adequate daytime sleep. With great daytime sleep, more restful nights won't be far behind.
4. Participate in the bedtime routine
One very beneficial role for your partner can be participating in the bedtime routine. In the first few months it is often very hard to keep a baby fully alert at the end of feeding, but as the baby reaches 4-5 months and is more alert you can start to separate eating from sleeping (which can be really helpful if night wakings are becoming an issue after 4 months). Need more tips on baby’s first schedule? Check out my blog all about it!
I usually recommend developing a bedtime routine where mom feeds the baby (if breastfeeding) in the living room, or another non- sleep environment, and then the non-breastfeeding partner takes the baby to the bedroom or safe sleep space and does a short bedtime routine such as reading a book, singing a lullaby, then placing the baby to sleep drowsy, but awake (and on it's back). Once this has been established, then partners can rotate who does the bedtime routine.
Over here at our home, since we have two children, we often take turns putting each child to bed so we get equal bonding time with each child.
5. Give your partner a task
Nope-- not taking out the trash, but rather collecting the resources you need to set the foundation for good sleep habits. Have them head over to my website to download free sleep resources! They’ll be directed to subscribe to my email list, which I promise will benefit your child’s sleep and allow you to stay up-to-date with any promotions, giveaways or other goodies.
I feel incredibly blessed that I have a partner that is bonded with our children, and those connections can start early on. I hope these tips were helpful in giving your partner the confidence they need to help with bedtime and overnight sleep care.
Kelsey Alford, CPNP, DNP
Kelsey is a pediatric nurse practitioner, sleep consultant to babies and children ages 0-18 years, and founder of Nested Sleep.
She has over 15 years of experience working in the field of pediatrics. She is married and a mom to two kids ages 2 and 4. Her mission is to ensure families don’t have to walk the world of parenthood alone and get the support they need to have happy, healthy, and well rested kiddos. She lives in the Seattle area and works with families both locally and virtually. Follow her on Instagram here!
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.