Fathers can have a really positive impact on the the development of healthy infant sleep, but most infant sleep research is focused on the mother's behaviour. The small amount of research that has looked at fathers in their assessment attests to this and agrees that more research is required - finally researchers are starting to look more in to the important role fathers can play with infants sleep!
We all know that fathers input in childcare has a very positive influence on their brain, social and emotional development, but did you know that this starts in infancy?
One of the great things about fathers is how differently they interact with their children in comparison to mothers and this variation in interactions between mother and baby and father and baby is very healthy. Fathers interactions are often more physical and stimulating which can have direct effects on the child's development, but there are also more indirect effects fathers can have - like influencing mother and child interactions by supporting mothers decision making or parenting behaviours.
So how have 'the researchers' found fathers parenting to be different to mothers around infant sleep?
Most of us would agree that fathers interact differently with babies at night. They tend to have shorter and less interactive interventions when baby wakes and are more likely to have a limit setting approach with baby sleep problems.
Researchers have also found that fathers often find it easier to do less active soothing at night - as opposed to mothers who tend to do more active soothing like feeding or cuddling.
Does this all sound like a father you know? It does to me, and these parenting 'traits' that many fathers have can be very helpful in some situations where parents are facing challenges around their infants sleep.
There are many ways you can get your child's father more involved in their care during the infancy period. My husband does the bath and bedtime routine for our boys when he gets home, often getting in the shower with them for some play time too - they love it, and it's great use of the short time they get together in the day.
Especially with younger infants, getting Dad doing more hands on will help baby to become more familiar with him doing baths, bedtime, soothing and settling.
If you are having challenges with your child's night-time sleep you can try things like splitting the night in to 2 shifts so mum does half and dad does the other, having alternating nights when one of you does the 'getting up', mum does the feed and dad settles baby back to sleep, or dad does the re-settling when you know that baby is unlikely to be hungry.
So lets not under estimate all the fathers out there and how much of a positive impact they can have and do have on us, our babies and all of the families sleep.
Happy fathers day!
Amy and Elspeth
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