Let Dads Be Dads

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When I talk to clients about their sleep goals for their family, I often hear from Mom some variation of this request: “I want anyone to be able to put my baby to sleep, not just me!” or “My husband really wants to help, but my baby will only let ME put him to sleep” or just simply, “I want my husband to be involved at bedtime, but… right now it’s just me, and my baby won’t have it any other way!”

And Dads have their complaints too:  “I just don’t know what I should do; the baby only seems to want Mom” or “Mom is a baby hog” or “I would love to help with bedtime, if she would just let me!” (Not sure if that refers to Mom or baby!)

I LOVE that goal!  Let’s hear it for dads!

There are SO many reasons why letting dads take over bedtime helps everyone. The bedtime routine is a great time for dads and their babies and children to bond. It also helps babies who are in the process of sleep training learn to begin to move away from a very strong mom-sleep association (usually associated with nursing/bottles or rocking).  Finally, don’t underestimate how much Dad stepping in at bedtime offers a much needed break for tired mamas.

Dad bedtime

Relinquish the reins to Dad at bedtime with these tips:

  • Good parenting is not a competition. Dads often develop  routines different from moms. Not only is that fine, but it’s also the point of the switch off! Let Dad do his thing, even if that means reading his favorite “The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts” every single night!
  • When Dad assumes bedtime duty, he is not replacing Mom. This is important for moms who have a hard time letting Dad take over. Remember, dads also have different styles and skills to impart, and your children will be richer for the variety. Let Dad show his stuff at bedtime to tickle, talk, tell his stories, and do his own special tuck.
  • Mom does not have to disappear once Dad takes over. Whether it’s the bottle, nursing, the final kiss, reading a particular book, tag-teaming works well; it takes a village! Parents can choose to do the routine together or to stagger it so that both can get their own special time with baby.

Here are some practical ways to include Dad:

Let Dad give the bottle before bedtime. If you are nursing, this may not work, but if it is possible, try!

Let him do some or all of the pre-sleep routine. I mean really DO the routine – not just make a cameo! Give him license. Moms may be pleasantly surprised by his creativity at bonding, and moms can start enjoying a break. The routine should be about  15-20 minutes of “quiet time”, which can include a couple books, made up stories, songs, dancing to quiet music, a massage.

If you are sleep training and doing a method that involves checking on baby at intervals, let Dad do the checking! This is a great “job” for dads. They are usually better at being “business like”, which sends a good message to baby. Also, if baby is used to falling asleep with Mom, having Mom check in makes it harder on baby and Mom. When Dad comes into the picture, the guarantee is baby will fall asleep faster.

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After graduating with a B.A. in Psychology from Dartmouth and an M.D. from Cornell Medical School, Rebecca Kempton worked for several years as a medical director for healthcare technology and pharmaceutical companies before becoming certified as an infant and toddler sleep consultant and starting her own business, Baby Sleep Pro. With her three children, aged  five and under, along with dozens of clients nationwide, Rebecca has honed her sleep coaching skills. Using a variety of behavioral techniques, she customizes sleep solutions  based on what she learns about you, your child, and your family’s goals; Rebecca works with clients  nationwide by phone, video chats and email. For more information, email [email protected]; visit babysleeppro.com and follow her on facebook.com/babysleeppro and twitter @babysleeppro

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