While the adage “it takes a village to raise a child” is undoubtedly correct in its wisdom, a typical household does not have a village – it has two parents. The responsibilities in taking care of a child should be equally divided between the mother and the father. However, it is common to find one parent excel at a certain task compared to the other. For example, many couples find that their baby won’t sleep for mom but will for dad.
One of the main reasons why a baby won’t sleep for mom but will for dad is because the baby associates the mother with other activities such as nursing. The possibility of other activities can distract the baby from going to bed. Moreover, parents also observe the same phenomenon when dads spend more time with the baby than the moms do.
This article will discuss the possible reasons why your baby is being picky when it comes to who is putting them to sleep.
Importance of Sleep
It goes without saying that sleep is incredibly important, especially for babies. Parents would even find that their newborns would sleep most of the day away. Babies need all this sleep because of how much energy their bodies are using up for growth and development.
Compared to animals in the wild that can already run around as soon as they are born, it would seem like humans are put at a disadvantage. However, it has been traditionally theorized that humans evolved to be born to develop further outside the mother’s body so that they would be able to fit through the mother’s pelvis.
Even though babies can typically sleep two-thirds of the time, parents are still exhausted with childcare. When parents are not nursing, playing, or changing diapers, they are trying to get the baby to go back to sleep. There are a variety of strategies parents can utilize to increase their effectiveness (e.g., swaddling, rocking, massaging, etc.). However, some parents find that their babies can be put to sleep faster by their dad than the mom.
This parental selectivity should not be cause for too much concern. Babies commonly develop certain preferences. Some babies even prefer the opposite. However, it would benefit the parents if this certain selectivity was dealt with as soon as possible. If left unchecked, the baby might further develop the association of sleep with the dad, making it significantly more difficult for the mom to put the baby to sleep.
One of the most straightforward ways to address this issue is by learning the possible reasons for what causes this phenomenon to occur in the first place. Understanding the reasons would allow parents to reach the root of the problem. Here are some of the possible reasons why your baby won’t sleep for mom but will for dad.
Mom is Associated with Other Activities
Although babies are still developing their cognitive skills, they are already able to associate certain things with one another without them really trying. While babies do exhibit reflexive or instinctive behavior such as latching to a nipple to nurse, they can also exhibit learned behavior as well.
For example, it is highly recommended to put a baby on a schedule. The sooner a baby is put on a daily schedule, the easier it will be to get them to do certain activities such as nursing and sleeping. This is because the daily repetition of these activities at the same time will eventually condition their bodies to learn and adapt.
Likewise, babies can sometimes learn to associate parents with certain activities. One possible reason why your baby won’t sleep for mom but will for dad is because the baby associates the mom with nursing.
Understandably, a baby might be fussier with mom than they are with dad during bedtime because the baby knows that the mother can nurse them. This might be more applicable to babies who breastfeed as opposed to babies who bottle-feed. Conversely, dads can get the baby to sleep faster because the baby does not associate the father with nursing. Thus, they do not expect the possibility of getting fed by the dad.
There are a few ways to approach this issue. For example, the mom can be assigned to bedtime duty for some time to allow the baby to learn that the mom can get them to sleep too. Putting them to bed on a daily routine also helps reinforce bedtime. Adjusting the amount of sleep your baby gets during the day can also make it easier to get them to sleep at night.
If the baby keeps getting fussy during bedtime, the mom can also get one of the dad’s used shirts. Just like how babies can use their mother’s scent to bond with strangers, the scent of the dad might be able to help the baby fall asleep.
Dad Spends More Time with Baby
Parental love cannot be measured, but the time spent with the baby can. It is possible that a baby can become more comfortable with a particular parent when that parent spends more time with the baby. While mothers traditionally spend more time in childrearing, there are certain situations wherein the fathers ultimately spend more time with the baby. This is most exemplified by stay-at-home fathers and breadwinning mothers.
It has been studied that the switching of gender roles affects the total family dynamics. For example, stay-at-home fathers are more flexible in gender ideals. They have also been reported to develop traits typically associated with mothers such as being nurturing and communicative.
Understandably, fathers who spend more time with their babies develop positive father-child relationships. This can be a potential reason as to why your baby won’t sleep for mom but will for dad. In this situation, the baby has associated the father with comfort more than they have with the mother.
Now, parents with this type of situation do have to accept that there will be some level of bias from the baby. This type of bias is typically toward the mother when parents take traditional gender roles. Unfortunately, there are some mothers who may feel bad when their babies are more comfortable with their father than they are with their mother.
If the mother wants to be able to put their baby to sleep, they will have some hurdles to cross. For example, they might have to follow the tips above. They will have to be the designated bedtime parent for some time until the baby associates the mother with sleeping. The mother will also have to take time and develop sleeping strategies of her own.
Once the baby learns and associates the mother with bedtime, the mother would potentially have an easier time putting them to bed – even if the baby spends more time with dad during the day.