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Dear Care and Feeding,
My daughter is 6 months old, breastfeeding, and has been in a sleep regression for a few weeks now. I understand these things happen, but I need some advice on how to manage my husband. In short, I want him to stop helping at night.
My husband’s always valued getting at least nine hours of sleep a night, and his mood is very negative (typically toward me) the next day if he doesn’t get it. This, in turn, causes me so much anxiety that I’m unable to fall asleep myself if I anticipate he’ll need to wake with the baby at all. For example, twice last week I slept in another room to attempt to get a full night of sleep, and both times I heard him banging around and throwing bottles out of frustration. When I get up to try to help, his frustration gets to me, and I’m unable to fall back to sleep. The next day is terrible, with two exhausted parents, and I feel myself tiptoeing around him and feeling guilty that he sacrificed his sleep in the first place.
We both work full time, and our daughter goes to day care during the day. I’ve accepted that I won’t get the same sleep, and I work hard to stay as positive as I can during the day and power through. This usually works for a few days until he gets up with her to try to relieve the burden, but ends up creating a negative space for days after.
He will take our daughter for the first couple of hours in the morning to allow me to sleep, pump, and get ready for the workday. How can I tell him not to get up at night and to prioritize his sleep?
—Up All Night
Dear Up All Night,
Just tell him. Let him know that you appreciate his willingness to help out in the middle of the night, but that you’ve noticed it’s detrimental to all three of you for the reasons you’ve outlined above.
Sometimes, when a new parent is breastfeeding, the other new parent feels like they have to step up and be an “equal” partner in the many inconveniences of caring for their newborn. Middle-of-night feedings and changings are a big part of that. But there is no “equality” in new parenthood. A breastfeeding parent often assumes the greater responsibility for care, both during the day and at night. Equity looks different in every family, and for yours, sleep parity is something it sounds important for you to achieve. You can only achieve that by lowering your own stress and anxiety, and if the best way to lower it is to be able to rest in the knowledge that you’ll be tending to your daughter’s nightly routine, you and your husband should agree on that as the new plan.
There are plenty of other ways he can contribute without disrupting his or your daughter’s sleep. Offer him suggestions. Many suggestions. He sounds willing to help.
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