How to help your partner with the overnight shift


One of the first things that people tell you when they find out you’re expecting (after congratulations, of course) is to say goodbye to sleep. And it’s a fact — with a newborn, you can expect to wake up at least every 2-4 hours to feed your newly baked bun

If you’re not the person doing the feeding, you have one of two choices: stay warm and cozy in bed while your partner does all the work (um, not cool), or you can do your part with moral, emotional, and practical support. Whether that means feeding your partner an egg sandwich over your 2-day-old daughter’s head, or working out a you-go-I-go system so one of you can get some zzz’s, a supportive partner can make the first few months of overnights with a newborn a lot easier. 

Here are a few ways that new parents can work together through those sleepless nights: 

Start Out With the Double-Team

The first few nights you’re up with your newborn can be extremely intimidating, but consider it a training period. At least during the first few weeks, it’s a good idea for both of you to get up and be there for the feeding. One of you feeds your baby, while the other person provides support, whether that’s in the form of a blanket, snacks, food, water, a cheerleader, or anything else your partner might need. As you get more experience and start to figure out what you need when you crawl out of bed for a middle-of-the-night feed, you two can start taking turns as a solo act. 

Create a Schedule

When you have your 3 am feeding routine as dialed as you’re going to get, feel free to start taking turns so one of you can get some sleep while the other works the night shift. This can take whatever form works for you, whether it means you trade nights where one does all the feedings or take turns during the night. This way, at least one of you can sneak in a few extra zzz’s throughout the night. Pro Tip: If you happen to have the night off, consider using earplugs and/or a sleep mask to help you sleep through night feedings. 

Stick to Your Schedule

Once you’ve found a schedule that works for you, stick to it as closely as possible. Studies have shown that a regular sleep schedule can help you get better rest, so once you and your partner have a plan, stick to it. That said, of course, living with a newborn means that sleep schedules are guidelines at best. But the closer you stick to your sleep schedule, the better rested you’ll all be. 

Prep in Advance

Once you get a handle on what the overnight shift entails, you can prep in advance to help set your partner up for success during their next turn. Will the baby need a bottle? Make sure there’s a clean one ready. How about a burp cloth? (Another pro tip: The dirty one you used for the last feeding doesn’t count…) A little bit of logistical and tactical support goes a long way toward showing your partner you care and you support them, even when you’re not in the room with them. Not 100% what your partner might need? Just ask. Which leads us to…

Talk It Out

If something’s not working, or one of you has a concern, speak up! You’ll be doing this for several months, so keep the lines of communication open to ensure that all of the parts are working as well as they can. Not feeling it one night? Ask your partner to switch with you and take the feedings. And if your partner needs a break, step up without complaint. Yes, you’re tired. You both are. But you’re a team, so be sure to pick up the slack when one of you is flagging. 

Consider Separate Rooms

Now hear us out: this is only temporary (unless you love it). If you’re swapping nights, think about sleeping in separate rooms, so that one of you can get a good night’s sleep without being woken up by your partner getting out of and back into bed every few hours. If you’re only getting a solid night’s sleep every other night, make sure it helps get you ready for your shift the following night. 

Schedule Nap Time on the Weekends

For many people, weekends are the only time to catch up on some much-needed sleep. While it may not be as good as sleeping the night through, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention says that a short nap of 15-30 minutes is an effective way to boost energy levels, which, we’re guessing, will be pretty low. Take baby duty for a bit while your partner grabs a quick 30 over the weekend, then when they’re up and alert, have them keep an eye out while you recharge. 

Remember: This Isn’t Forever

Finally, remember that things won’t always be this way. It may seem like you’re never going to get a good night’s sleep again, but you should be able to start weaning your child off of night feeds at around 6-12 months. Try to focus on enjoying the quiet moments alone with your baby before this phase is gone for good. 

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