Benefits of Social Distancing for Infant Sleep #2: MULTIPLE CAREGIVERS
One of the benefits of this time of social distancing is that many families have more than one caregiver at home. If the primary caregiver (most often this is Mom) is doing most of the bedtime and naptime routines, this is a great time to get a secondary caregiver (most often Dad) involved and give Mom a break!
I recommend that my clients introduce more than one way of putting their child to sleep to allow them some flexibility. Most infants will have a preference for feeding to sleep (whether bottle or breastfed), which is an AMAZING magic touch that is the saving grace of parents when babies are hard to settle! This preference can, however, make it difficult for breastfeeding mothers to introduce other methods of settling, especially in the early months. In the later months, we’ve often gotten so used to what is easy, that we don’t bother introducing another settling method or caregiver. But trust me, you will breathe a sigh of relief if you can take a break and allow Dad to take over for some naps or bedtimes!
If you try introducing a secondary caregiver into your bedtime routine, you’ll be surprised that your child might accept other methods of settling. Other possible ways to put your child to sleep are:
Singing or shushing
Nestling or cuddling
How to get started?
1. I recommend introducing the secondary caregiver to the bedtime routine so that your child gets used to having them involved in bathing, changing, massaging, story time, rocking, or whatever that routine may look like in your household.
2. During both naptime and bedtime, begin to allow the secondary caregiver to apply the “finishing touch”. This simply means that if baby wants to feed with Mom or go through any other steps of the bedtime routine, Dad (or the secondary caregiver) can provide the final cuddle, rocking, baby-wearing etc. to lull baby off to sleep. This allows baby to fall asleep with someone else and gives Mom a break!
3. Finally, once your child is used to going to sleep for someone else and in a different way, you can try letting your partner do the entire bedtime or naptime routine.
Remember to trust your instincts, as you know your child BEST. If your child isn’t accepting the change, or is very upset, feel free to jump in and go back to tried and true settling methods. The great thing about babies preferred method of settling is that you know that it will almost always WORK. Use that to your advantage and use that settling method as a backup on days that settling isn’t happening easily. You can always reset and try a new method again next time. If you feel that your partner and your child can stick to a new method and work it out, but there are some tears, that is OK. If your partner stays with your child during their tears, they can support their emotion and teach them that when they are upset, somebody cares and is there for them. This is NOT the same as leaving a child to cry-it-out alone, but rather is supporting healthy emotional development.
So if you’re home with your partner but still doing 100% of the settling at bedtime and nap time, you might want to consider introducing that secondary caregiver into the routine. The beauty of this time of isolation is that there are no time constraints, no distractions, no pressures. If you feel like trying something one day, you can. Do what works for your family. This is the freedom you will find in isolation!