Who Should Feed The Baby At Night?
How do you share the task of overnight feedings?
“It’s a good thing newborns are so cute, because if they weren’t no one would get out of bed at night to feed them.” I forget where I first heard that said, but there’s a lot of truth to it because getting up in the middle of the night absolutely stinks. In past generations this unenviable task almost exclusively fell upon moms, but thankfully that’s no longer a given. Today a lot of families are finding their own way to answer the question of who should get up at night with the baby.
With my first daughter, Madeline, I was a stay-at-home dad while my wife, Heather, worked outside the home. Later, with our second daughter, Annabel, Heather was a stay-at-home mom while I worked outside the home. In both cases, though, we decided ahead of time that the stay-at-home parent should do all of the nighttime feedings during the week. Our thinking was that, while it might be possible for the stay-at-home parent to catch a nap when the baby slept, it’s generally frowned upon to nap at the office. We didn’t let the parent who worked outside of the home off the hook entirely, though. He or she had to handle the feedings on Friday and Saturday nights so that the other one of us could get a good night’s sleep.
It’s a little harder to decide what to do when both parents work outside of the home because neither one is able to nap during the day. One of my best friends and his wife both work outside of the home, and they’ve decided to split their daughter’s nighttime feedings evenly. One night is the mom’s responsibility and the next is the dad’s. That way they both get as much sleep as possible.
Of course, to share the nighttime feedings a mom has to either pump ahead of time or the family has to use formula. Moms who exclusively breast feed (without pumping) obviously have no choice but to do the nighttime feedings themselves, but that doesn’t mean the dad/partner can’t help out. He can get up at night with the mom to change the baby’s diaper, burp the baby, or rock the baby back to sleep.
Despite all of my talk about sharing the load, there are still a lot of families that leave it all to the mom. This is sometimes because the dad needs to update his thinking from the 1950s, but other times it’s because the mom feels for whatever reason that it’s her duty to do it all herself.
In the end it’s a personal decision, but I’m of the opinion that today’s families should share the responsibility as much as possible. That’s only fair, but it goes beyond just being fair. It’s also better for the baby. Moms who try to do it all without help can easily be overwhelmed (or even put their mental health at risk) while dads who take an active role in parenting early on are more likely to remain involved later. Also, from a personal standpoint, I found that one of the ways I most bonded with my children was by feeding them late at night when the house was quiet and no one was around except for us. I know other dads likely appreciate that bonding time as well.
Man, just thinking about all of this has made me tired. How did/do you and your family handle nighttime feedings?
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