How Can Dads Help With Night Feeds

8 min read

Last Modified 12 July 2021 First Added 12 July 2021

By Shannan Humphrey

New parenthood is a full-time job and can be stressful, especially with those middle-of-the night feeds. With the struggle to get your newborn to fall back to sleep, new mums are often superheroes running on little to no sleep. However, all good superheroes need a sidekick.

When it comes to feeding a baby, it can be easy to let a breastfeeding mum do all the work. After all, if she’s exclusively breastfeeding, what can dad do? Well, dads can help and support mum during these hard times. As you’re no doubt already aware, having a newborn is a team effort. And even if you work during the day, remember that mum does too. In this article, we’ll cover why dads should help with night feeds and how.

Why dads should wake up for night feeds:

If you’re a working dad, it’s common to think that the parent who stays at home should be the one that gets up during the night to feed the baby. However, this isn’t a fair assumption. Staying at home to take care of a baby is a full-time job with little to no breaks and doesn’t just finish at 5pm like your typical day job. Fortunately, recent trends show dads taking a much more active role in the care of babies. The pandemic had a big impact here too with dads recognising the value of time at home with their families. Here’s a quote from the Fatherhood Institute summarizing the study:

A new study based on a nationally representative survey-sample of more than 2,000 fathers, found that most spent more time with their children, built stronger relationships with them, and improved their parenting skills during the first Covid-19 lockdown. They grew in confidence as parents, gained greater insights into their partners’ caring roles, and did more housework. The Fatherhood Institute survey was conducted by BritainThinks, and funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

Despite this, mums are still likely to take the lion’s share when it comes to baby’s care. And while mums definitely deserve a break or a helping hand, below we cover wider reasons why dads should be getting up with the baby during the night:

1. Teamwork makes the dream work

A note for mums: no matter how stubborn you are, you can’t do everything by yourself. Burning both ends of the candle can leave you feeling exhausted both mentally and physically. Therefore, when taking care of a new baby it’s important to have your partner by your side. Support and teamwork really can work wonders. Pitching in where needed, taking turns, and supporting mum can really help balance out the duties, alleviate stress, and prevent arguments.

2. Being a stay-at-home parent is hard work

Whether you’re a stay-at-home mum or dad, it’s easy to feel unappreciated. And if the other parent goes to work during the day, it’s common to think that the stay-at-home parent has an ‘easy job’. One of the biggest reasons dads don’t help with the baby during the night is because they have to get up and go to work, and they think that since mum stays at home, she can rest during the day. I’m sure all the fellow stay-at-home parents can agree that caring for a baby isn’t that easy, although we all wish it were.

Parenting is one of the most difficult and stressful jobs, often more-so than a typical 9-5 paid job since it never seems to end. So, instead of arguing about who gets up at night, helping feed the baby at night shows that both of your jobs are important to the family, and both deserve a good night’s sleep where possible.

3. Dad and baby bonding time

Helping care for the baby means more quality time for dad and baby. This is just as true for the day as the night-time too — spending time with your baby is good for both of you. You can learn a lot about your baby during night-time duties, such as how your baby likes to sleep, what calms them down quickly, and even experience hands-on feeding, changing and more. Not only will this give you more confidence as a parent, you’ll come to cherish those moments where it’s just you and your little one.

This one-on-one time with your baby can also help them bond with both parents separately. Instead of seeing night feeding as one of those ‘urgh, not again’ moments, treat it as a learning and bonding experience instead, even though you may be falling asleep with your baby in your arms.

How can dads help with feeding a baby?

There are lots of ways that dads can help with night feeds, as well as in general with taking care of baby. These methods can be applied during the day and at night, just know that whenever you can help your partner out with the baby, do it, because you’re a team.

1. Get up with your partner for night feedings

If mum insists on getting up to feed the little one, she could use a helping hand or support from you. If she’s breastfeeding, helping the baby latch on, or helping mum get in a comfortable position is helpful. After feeding the baby, you can put them over your shoulder and gently pat their back to wind them. Don’t forget to support their head! But even if mum wants to take charge of the whole show at times, being there to offer your help will do wonders for your relationship and how you settle into your new parental routine.

2. Mum pumps, dad feeds

Breastfeeding or formula, there is no right or wrong way to feed your baby, and both are great choices. If mum breastfeeds, she can pump some milk into a bottle to use for later. This is where dad can come in and take the reins, getting to experience the bonding that comes with feeding a little one. If mum doesn’t breastfeed, making a quick bottle of formula milk is easy. Mums tend try to take on everything and burn themselves out. Sometimes you may even have to force her to rest. Helping with bottle feeding is a great way to give her that well-needed break.

When bottle feeding your baby, cradle them close to you. They love feeling cosy and safe! While your baby is feeding you can try singing, reading a bedtime story, or simply chatting to them softly. Even though they won’t respond, this can help to calm them down and be familiarised with your voice.

3. Ask questions and muck in

These can be used both during the day and at night but making caring for your baby a team effort is key. Communication is a great tool — talk to your partner to find out what they need from you and how they feel. Every set of parents are different and what works for one couple might not for another. So, creating a schedule that works for both of you is a great balance to parenthood.

Other ways you can fit in helping with the baby include changing nappies, preparing meals, bathing, playtime, carrying the baby while out and about, or even just generally being around and overseeing the baby. While your partner is taking care of the baby you could also help around the house with chores or do the food shop. Mums will certainly appreciate the helping hand.

4. Know your rights on paternity leave

Obviously, an important factor in how much dad can help out is how much time he has to do so.  That makes it crucial to ensure he gets the amount of paternity leave he’s entitled to. It’s also worth considering shared parental leave. This is a relatively new scheme that allows mum and dad to share their time at home with baby and at work. Shared parental leave is available for the first year of your little one’s life. Unlike maternity and paternity leave, it grants both parents the same time away from work to care for the baby. Equally, it offers mum the chance to stay connected to her professional and social life. For more information, check out the gov.uk guide.

In conclusion...

Taking care of a baby is difficult, so getting that support and taking breaks is helpful. Even if your partner insists that they can do everything, offering your helping hand can save both of you from arguments and burnout.

Being responsive to the needs of your baby can be very rewarding. The more quality time you spend with your baby, the more you’ll grow in confidence as a parent and improve your relationship with your partner. Want to learn more about your baby? Take a look at our article on Why Do Babies Pull Weird Faces in Their Sleep.

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