After my husband puts our children down for bed, he does something I’m extremely jealous of – he falls asleep. Sometimes it takes him two minutes, but, on average, I’m pretty sure it takes him 30 seconds to go from wide awake to REM cycle. He doesn’t worry about what didn’t get done that day or what will need to be done the next. He doesn’t question whether the garage door is open or if the front door is locked. He doesn’t ask why he made that horrible decision in third grade. He simply falls asleep. This was once an area of friction between us, but we have learned to use it in our favor.
Parents Of Newborns Don’t Sleep.
When we had our first child, neither of us knew what we were doing or what to expect. I was one of those first-time parents that was terrified that my baby would just stop breathing. On top of my constant fear, our precious little baby was a cluster feeder, eating as often as twice an hour. I planned to breastfeed exclusively and although I had read breastfeeding was hard, I didn’t realize quite how hard it would be. I felt like I was failing him and our family every second – especially when I would start to doze off while feeding him. I thought I was most definitely going to smother him if I fell asleep while nursing. I asked my husband to stay awake and watch me while I fed the baby so he could wake me up if I dozed off. He accepted his task….and then promptly fell asleep. I felt like I was giving all of myself to this little person, and he couldn’t even stay awake for 20 minutes to make sure I didn’t smother our baby. I yelled and cried and was convinced I was on my own. I failed to accept the fact that he, too, was also exhausted and trying to figure out this parenting thing.
Making It A Team Effort
Our second child came along three years later, and we knew what we were doing now – kinda. I knew what to expect those first few weeks. I still couldn’t sleep. My husband was snoring any time he went horizontal. I recently watched a documentary about why Moms wake up to crying babies and Dads often don’t. A Mother’s amygdala is activated more intensely than a Father’s at the start of pregnancy. This is a permanent activation. This is the area of the brain that regulates emotion. It causes sensitivity to the needs of the baby. Studies have shown that when the Father is the primary caregiver, the same effect can occur in his brain. It made everything make sense. Even though we didn’t know this at the time of our second daughter’s birth, we thought distancing myself from the baby could improve my sleep. Normally, the baby would sleep in a bassinet on my side of the bed. We simply moved her to my husband’s side. This was his idea, and he promised me he would wake up if she cried. I was skeptical because of the experience with our first child, but he did indeed wake up. He would hear her before me, wake me up, I would feed her, and he would take care of everything else. I am not a pleasant person when I do not get enough sleep, and the impact of this arrangement made a world of difference. Since my husband didn’t have a problem falling back asleep after tending to a baby in the middle of the night, we were all getting more sleep than we had with our first child.
It’s easier for my husband to fall asleep so he Gets Up With The Kids
We now have a newborn. This third time around, we have decided to take three-hour shifts overnight. This allows us both to get uninterrupted sleep. It is the best solution at this time in our lives when we have two older kids in need of our energy during the day. Sometimes those older kids get up in the middle of the night, too, though. I don’t get up with them. Even if I hear them and my husband doesn’t. I will nudge him, and he gets up with them, comes back, and falls asleep. I have also worked on identifying irrational fears when it comes to my children getting hurt and trusting my husband. I chose him as a partner for a reason, and I was not doing a great job of allowing him to play his role. If your partner is like mine and can sleep like it’s their job, then maybe our strategies can help you find the answers to your middle of the night awake child woes.