And Tips for Helping you Let Go
Who does bedtime in your home: mom or dad?
Mom putting the baby to bed is the cultural norm, and often one that even feels good to both parents. But we’re learning more and more that when both caregivers share the parenting duties, the child benefits.
Research shows sharing the load lowers stress for both parents and strengthens developmental benefits for your children. A total win-win.
And yet, even moms who are the primary earners in the family report they do most of the parenting work, according to Motherly’s 2022 State of Motherhood. And Pew Research agrees, stating dads spend an average 8 hours a week on childcare while moms spend 14; dads spend 10 hours on household chores while moms spend 18.
There is much room for improvement when it comes to equitability in parenting and domestic labor – but for now, we’ll start with bedtime.
5 ways dad can join the bedtime routine
Expert tip: Let it go! In order for dad to step in and shoulder some of the parenting load, mom has to let go a little. In order to share the parenting load at bedtime, both parents need to work together as a team with dad stepping up and mom letting it happen. You can do it!
Baby Bath Duty
We love including a bath in the bedtime routine because it’s a great way to signal to your child that it’s time to calm and relax their body for the end of the day. Dad doing bath time helps strengthen the bond between him and your baby, too, thanks in part to oxytocin. That skin-to-skin contact dad and baby get from each other during bathtime stimulates oxytocin, known as the “love hormone”, creating an even closer relationship between the two.
If you’re having a hard time delegating tasks to dad, here’s some pretty sound data that shows letting go and letting dad do bedtime reading is really good for your baby. When dads read to their kids often and from a young age, the child’s language and literacy development tends to be more advanced.
In most families, there is one parent who does the majority of the feeding. Whether that’s because you’re nursing or because one parent works out of the house.
Rocking to Sleep
If you rock your child to sleep, consider sharing this part of the bedtime routine with your partner. I encourage parents to use this rocking time mindfully. Data shows family dynamics, emotional availability and parental stress can all affect your child’s sleep quality. To combat this, I recommend thinking of this time alone with your child as just that: alone time. Use this time as a brief digital-detox where dad’s phone is put away. He’s not busy with emails or text messages or Reddit; instead, his focus is on the child, rocking and patting, spending time relaxing together before the baby drifts off to sleep. This is especially key in the first six-months, when studies show increased bedtime involvement from dads improves sleep for both baby and mom. Can’t beat that.
For parents considering sleep training, there’s strong evidence to suggest having dad captain this change is highly effective. Sleep training involves changing your baby’s sleep habits in a way that allows them to fall asleep in their crib on their own. If mom is the one usually putting baby to bed, having dad lead the charge in sleep training could make all the difference. And just in case you needed a little more evidence: when dads are more involved with their babies, especially in the first six months, there are fewer night awakenings for your baby – and therefore you!
Letting go so dad can get involve in bedtime routine
Letting go and letting dad get involved can bring hard emotions. Moms might say, “My baby cries when my partner tries to put him to sleep.” “My toddler will only calm down if I am the one going to him”.
It’s ok if one parent is the baby’s favorite right now; the other parent is still capable of taking over. Acting with confidence and validating your baby’s emotions is important. Tell your child: “Dad is doing bedtime tonight. I know you like it when I do bedtime. I like putting you to sleep, too! I will see you when you wake up.”
Just because your baby is crying for mom does not mean that he does not like when dad takes over. It’s a normal, healthy way of telling mom, “I really wish I could be with you all the time!” It’s also healthy when mom says, “I know, and I will see you when you wake up.” There is this fear and confusion that doing that is neglectful, but it’s actually the opposite. This is seeing your baby, and totally acknowledging that things can be hard.
There are things that baby/child can decide and there are things they still need us to decide for them. For example, a baby/child can decide if they want to sleep with the bear or with the lion. They can decide if they want to read a blue book or a yellow book. But they still can’t be responsible for deciding what time they should go to sleep, who puts them to sleep or where.