Sharing night-time feedings and duties

What to Know

  • Making a collaborative plan in the daylight hours helps in the nighttime hours
  • Flexibility is key as your baby’s needs and patterns change

Sleep deprivation can have a profound impact on a family with a new baby or young children, and assuming that one parent over another will be responsible for all nighttime duties is a recipe for stress and resentment – ensuring everyone gets adequate sleep is a team effort! To help divide and conquer the inevitable nighttime feedings and care responsibilities, consider the individual needs and schedules for yourself, your partner, and your baby. How many children you have, whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, the status of your recovery from labor (not to mention your overall physical and mental well-being) and whether you and your partner work, are all factors to consider in devising a joint plan. For example, if one parent has a very demanding week-day job, where losing sleep at night is not an option, perhaps that parent should be in charge of weekend night feedings. Maybe both parents are back at work and it makes sense to hire overnight care or have a relative stay over some nights to help while night feedings are still occurring.

Father holding and feeding his baby

Remember that every family is unique and what works for one family may not work for another. Being proactive and communicating about the nighttime responsibilities will make tackling those responsibilities more manageable. Check out What to Do for specific ideas and examples.

What to Do

Communicate and put the plan in writing

Be proactive and have a discussion with your partner before the night comes. Map out a schedule or a plan of execution to help avoid arguments over whose responsibility is what in the night. With a thought-out plan in place, there will be no question as to whose turn it is to wake and tend to your baby’s nighttime needs.

Decide what exactly needs to be done

Be sure everyone who is sharing in nighttime responsibilities knows exactly what those responsibilities are! For some families, this may simply be one nighttime bottle for one child, designated to either a parent or caregiver. Other families may have more complex logistics to consider. For example, a family welcoming their second or subsequent child may have one parent solely responsible for the bedtime routine with the older children, while another parent tends to the newborn. A breastfeeding mother might pump a bottle of breastmilk during the day to be given by another parent at night or one parent may bring the baby when she wakes to her breastfeeding mother and then be in charge of burping and a new diaper. Whatever the scenario for your family, figure out what the nighttime dutiesactually are to help determine who is responsible for them.

Change the plan as needed

As your family grows and changes, update the nighttime plan to always consider each member of the family’s needs. A newborn’s needs in the night will be very different than an infant’s and a toddler’s needs will be different still. Keep a log of daily and nightly feedings and patterns to help with planning, to adjust for changes, and to eliminate the need to wake another parent in the night with questions.