‘You want me to get up? But I have work in the morning!’ These words are heard in bedrooms throughout the globe when a baby cries at night. While some relish every precious moment with a newborn (yes, even the ones at 3am) for others, months of broken sleep can feel like torture.
So, when both parents are exhausted, who should take responsibility when those midnight cries risk your sanity, and relationship?
Here’s five reasons why sharing the night shift is the best thing for both your relationship, and your baby.
Most humans don’t function well on four hours sleep per night for months on end; think grumpy, negative pain in the backside. Do you really want to live with that easily-frustrated, sleep-deprived zombie, and allow them to drive your child/ren around? Even if breast-feeding, attending to the baby all night every night shouldn’t automatically fall to the mum. To keep all members of the household sane, invest in a pump so both parents can do night feeds (one at a time, there is no need for both parents to lose sleep), and work out a roster (before the midnight cry) so both partners are at their best when they need to be.
Often, the fact that women have breasts (and maternity leave) sees to women carrying the lions share in the initial months, and men supporting the family financially. It sounds fair – one job each, the only catch is, caring for babies is twenty-four hours a day with no weekends or sick pay. Sure, employees in the workforce generally request you stay awake (also pretty vital for surgeons, pilots and bus-drivers, for example) but so does the task of keeping an infant alive (and often, care for older siblings too). Choking, drowning, unattended stovetops – these hazards present fatal consequences to infants if they’re caregiver can’t stay awake to supervise them. (Even more dangerous: telling your wife you can’t help as you have to work is saying the work she does is less valuable and therefore, deserves less respect. Worth the consequences?) If you want science on it: new findings in the Journal of Sleep Research (Feb, 2018) found staying up all night harms a woman’s working memory far more than a man’s, which can lead to judgement errors and thereby increased risk of accidents.
Babies are only little for a moment. Why not savor it? A weird kind of magic blankets the world in the wee hours. The house creaks. Time stops. There’s nowhere to rush to, and only your child to steal your attention. Only when you’ve taken an unsettled baby by the light of the clock radio and satiated their needs till they fall asleep, serene and content, can you feel that sense of satisfaction and purpose. A child will never look at you like a stranger if you’ve done the hard yards in the dark hours, and really gotten to know your child…