Feeling sleep dad-prived? Here are several handy tips on how to help your little one (and by extension, you and your wife) to sleep better at night
By Kel Tan
Welcoming a baby into the family undoubtedly brings immeasurable joy, but it can also translate into numerous sleepless nights – even for dads.
Indeed, “when your baby is not sleeping well, it doesn’t just affect mother and child, but also the entire household,” says Zoe Chu, a baby and child sleep expert who runs sgsupernanny.com.
It’s integral to establish a baby bedtime routine; however, even in this modern day and age, the bulk of sleep training unfortunately still falls on the mother, especially if the baby is breastfeeding.
Oftentimes, dads aren’t certain of when or how to step in. However, there are actually many ways that you can – and should – help out.
“Parenting is a team effort. For your wife who has just delivered, or has been busy nursing round the clock and looking after baby, your help will give her a welcome break,” shares Zoe.
“Quite often, new mums may experience baby blues or postnatal depression, and they need as much help and emotional support as they can get from their loved ones to help them pull through the difficult stages of motherhood.”
But your involvement won’t only aid your stressed and exhausted wife – it’ll benefit both you and your child, too.
“The bedtime routine is a good way for your child to have that precious quality time with you,” adds Zoe.
“[In future], your child will always look forward to that special bonding time. He or she will not associate bedtime as something that only Mummy is involved in.”
To most dads, sleep training may seem like a daunting task at first.
“Indeed, the first few days of training may be a bit tough, as you’re changing a routine that your child is used to,” admits Zoe.
However, the process is entirely manageable once you get down to it.
Here, Zoe offers a simple step-by-step guide:
Step 1: Time it right
Put your child to bed early, ideally between 7pm and 8pm.
Late bedtimes will usually result in an overtired child who is either cranky or hyperactive.
Do also put baby down before he or she is overtired; if you miss the sleep window, you will find that your child will either fight bedtime or be too active to fall asleep.
Step 2: Be consistent
Follow a regular bedtime routine every night.
For instance, administer a warm bath and put baby into pyjamas, before telling a few bedtime stories or singing a few lullabies.
Consistency is key – for example, if you decide to pat baby to sleep one night, he or she will subsequently expect the same treatment.
Step 3: Learn to let go
Place baby in the cot and kiss him or her goodnight.
Let him or her learn to settle to sleep without your help.
Being able to fall asleep independently is an essential skill that baby needs to develop.
As Zoe says, “if you never learn to let go of the bicycle, how will they ever learn to ride? The same goes for sleep, too.”
Additionally, Zoe recommends ensuring that baby is well-fed before bedtime, and that the bedroom is completely dark (i.e. no light lights are required) to encourage the production of melatonin (a naturally occurring hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle).
Children of different ages have different bedtimes, which can sometimes prove rather challenging to manage.
“Divide and conquer if possible. Mum can be in charge of one kid, and Dad can be in charge of the other,” advises Zoe.
“However, if the kids are of similar enough ages, you can do their bedtime routine together.”
If you’re still finding sleep training difficult despite the pointers above, don’t be afraid to seek help from a baby sleep expert.
“I know of many parents who just pray and hope that their kids will outgrow night-time disturbances,” shares Zoe.
“But in the end, it’s not just your sleep that’s being affected – but that of your growing child as well. Your child needs [sufficient] quality sleep to allow him or her to develop physically, mentally and emotionally.”
Summing it up perfectly, Zoe adds, “Don’t we owe it to our children to give them to best start in life – which is good quality sleep? If we don’t offer them junk food because we know it’s bad for their health, why would we offer them junk sleep?”
I usually I end up hearing funny roars and shrieks from the room when my husband attempts putting Evangeline to sleep.~Debbie, mummy of a 3-year-old.
“Trust my husband to be snoring away in our kid’s room while our little girl holds a mini concert on her bed.” ~Huiqi, mummy of a 4-year-old.
“My overgrown child (husband) and our son will be pillow fighting before bedtime...it usually tires the BIG child first.”~ Beatrice, mummy of a 3-year-old.
“I usually knock out before my daughter, and when I wake up in the middle of the night, I will have a blanket over me (probably by my wife) and once, some Barbie make up over my face (pretty sure not my wife).” ~ Danny, daddy of a 4-year-old.
“I had to use my wife’s shirt so that our baby son could smell mummy’s scent to sleep, imagine the shock my wife had when she saw me in her shirt...it was a cropped top on me, but hey, I got the baby to sleep! BOOYAH!” ~ Lee Han, daddy of a 5-month-old.
“I don’t think my stories are boring, but my wife disagrees and will always say I bore the kids to sleep. (P.S. she enjoys the quiet time we have after they are asleep). ~ Amarrudin, daddy of a 6 and 4-year-old.