Don’t want to let your baby cry it out? A dad’s journey

My husband with our daughter Nerea

Note by Heidi: Please welcome Tessa Marks to Baby Sleep Advice! ❤️ Tessa is training with me and getting ready to join me in helping you and your babies sleep better, without tears. In her first post here, we get a unique view, through her husband’s eyes, of their baby sleep adventures.

I’d like to kick off my engagement in Baby Sleep Advice talking about and honoring my husband’s support and journey when dealing with our little girl Nerea’s sleep issues.  

He has shown the flexibility, patience, understanding, love and support that is so needed for us moms who don’t want to let their baby ‘cry it out’. Moms who need a long-term approach to ‘teaching’ their baby how to sleep on their own.

I hope our story and advice can inspire others.  

Family ‘sleep’ life: first a dream … then reality

I assume almost all new parents agree that whatever you thought your ideal family ‘sleep’ life would be……. the reality ends up being absolutely NOTHING like this.

Becoming a new parent often means dealing with different types of baby sleep issues, a chronic lack of sleep and the overall new family dynamics that are created. This means you constantly have to revise your vision of ‘how things should be’ and what the new normal is.

I think these changes might often be quite natural for moms. For dads however, these are much harder to understand and come to terms with. Especially for those who are very pragmatic and more fixed in their ideas, as mine is and….let’s face it, most men’s ideas are…:)

It started before our baby was born. My husband stated: ‘I do not want the baby to sleep in our bed, she should be in her own crib.’ Then, even with a crib attached to our bed, the baby soon ended up all night in my arms. Having her close was just so much easier and let me get a lot more sleep. Not to mention the need I felt (and still feel:)) to keep her as close to me as possible.

Then he asked to try and put her down awake for her naps… but under Nerea’s and my protests he didn’t stand a chance:-)… We both ended up spending countless hours walking her around in the baby carrier for her naps.

Some walks were more fun than others:)

My husband also quickly accepted that I was managing Nerea’s sleep at night and he was happy with this arrangement. He was a huge help though before 12pm and after 6am making sure I got some, much needed, extra sleep.

Dads need a plan

My husband always insisted on the fact that he was more than happy to help the rest of the night. However, this needed to be with a clear plan. I think, another thing that a lot of us recognize: dads need a PLAN…

Nerea never slept well. She always needed to be rocked or breastfed to sleep with frequent wakings at night. So, the idea of letting her ‘cry it out’ came up more than once and reinforced by seeing other new parents handle their baby’s sleep in this way ‘successfully’. But, in the end, he accepted I’d never be comfortable with this.

We have even ended up sleeping often in separate bedrooms to maximize sleep. This was in neither of our ideal version of family sleep life and difficult (for both of us) to accept. I will write more about how we dealt with this in one of my next posts.

However, the important message here is that he never once told me, after I complain about a rough night, “well you could just let her cry it out” or something else to that effect. Instead, he always sympathized and supported me and honestly, that means everything.

So, now how DID my husband handle all of this?

  • By accepting that I hardly ever listen to his advice or opinion:-).
  • He understood that a mother’s instinct is overwhelmingly strong and that respecting that instinct and supporting my ‘way’ was really the only sane way to go.
  • Because he sees how much Nerea thrived and how happy she is.
  • And, last but not least, by always seeing us as a TEAM. Even if we’ve had our share of disagreements my husband always insisted on this.

“There can be only one cook in the kitchen” he often says. My determination to teach Nerea how to soothe herself to sleep, helped him to come to terms with the fact that, in the face of punctual setbacks, he didn’t have to find a solution to this situation but rather support me along this journey. By doing so, we were also able to show our little girl consistency.

It’s not been easy for him to adapt his ideal vision to our reality time and time again. But he did adapt, to the benefit of the whole family.

No need to resort to ‘cry it out’

To finish, I think it’s important to acknowledge that as a mom dealing with a lack of sleep is far from easy but for a dad there is often another level of difficulty. They often don’t feel ‘heard’ and quickly feel frustrated and useless.   

What has helped my husband tremendously is that, as Nerea is getting a little older, he is now more autonomous in putting her to sleep. He’s now able to get her to sleep the way he wants when they are just the two of them. She falls asleep in her bed without ever resorting to ‘letting her cry it out’.

He did this by:

  • being clear, calm and consistent with her,
  • introducing fun father-daughter sleep rituals,
  • and by very gradually letting her sleep more ‘on her own’.

If possible, this has strengthened their bond even more. It also shows that he was right in his point of view and that dads should have the space to put their own ideas in to practice.

Our baby sleep ‘adventures’ continue but knowing we can and will handle it together makes all the difference.

I hope this was helpful or inspiring for you in some way and hope to see you soon! Please let us know below in the comments below if any of this resonates with you and if there’s anything you’d like to share that could be helpful for others?

If you are looking for more practical tips and resources for a gentle approach to teaching your baby how to self-soothe, please visit the Baby Sleep Advice website. Here, you will also find a Free 3-day Dad & Baby sleep training!


Tessa

Tessa is a Dutch psychologist and yoga teacher living with her (French) husband and 22-month-old girl in Geneva. She has worked for over 10 years in the humanitarian field mainly providing psychosocial support to mothers, other caregivers and (their) children all over the world, from Asia to Africa to South and Central America with agencies such as the Red Cross, the International Rescue Committee and UNICEF. At the moment she is working towards opening up her own independent practice. She became a huge fan of Heidi Holvoet’s approach while struggling with their daughters sleep and not wanting to let her ‘cry it out’. She could not be happier to now be part of the team and have the chance to offer parents and their babies the same non-judgmental support and to work together with parents and baby on a gentle approach to more sleep with respect for everyone’s needs and rhythm.

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