Advice from Dads

We recently asked the SMS4dads Reference Group to share some tips on settling their baby.

“4dad: SMS4dads Team here. Lots of dads ask about teamwork getting their baby to sleep. 

Can you give us some ideas about how you worked as a team with settling your baby?”

What a response!

Thanks to all the SMS4dads Reference Group dads who sent in their tips. There are so many good ideas!  

We will be sending out more info from this list to the dads who are still figuring it out with their young bubs.

Thanks again from SMS4dads Team

* If you are interested in joining the SMS4Dads Reference Group you can find out more here.

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SMS4dads Reference Group Feedback -

Settling your bub... here's what dads say

We talked about it, and both came to the conclusion that whoever had the energy on a given day or time would do what they could. Some days after work you would think you have the energy/patience and 10 minutes into a settle realise you don’t so the other partner always knew that if someone had to tap out and swap that was okay because it was what is best for everyone.

Some days you have the energy to settle for an hour, other days you are both taking 5-minute shifts and swapping. Just supporting each other and doing the best you can!

Sometimes singing works, sometimes crying together I found can help.

Lots of activities throughout the day to make bedtime more easy.

Taking turns and adjusting based on who’s more/less tired. Also, the more time bub spends with dad in general, the less he’ll be mum dependent .

Feed to help them relax. If feeding doesn’t work, dad cuddles.

I used a gym ball to bounce or a rocking chair and a Muslim cloth gently over her head to make it dark.

With twins it was more challenging… but one each, walking them to sleep. Two years later and it still does the trick (most nights).

My wife gets home before me and feeds bub. When I get home she’s fed and I take over whilst my wife has a shower and gets a head start on bed time usually around 6pm. I go to bed at 8pm so I get to spend some time with my little man and give him a bath and wear him out a bit. Then we hit the hay and wake up at 3am whilst the Mrs gets ready for work, I get baby ready for the day and make her a coffee.

Taking it in turns. Recognising when you’re getting frustrated and singing a song – it’s harder to be angry when you’re singing a song. Put time frames on and swap if no luck.

Just making sure communication is open and respecting each other when we are having conversations.

To be honest we were lucky enough that I had the Midas touch to get him to sleep which was great in the early months as my wife was able to rest and go to sleep earlier and be more rested for the feeds through the night. As our baby has gotten older, we both share the time together just before going to bed but I’m still the one putting him to bed and getting him to sleep as that’s what he has become accustomed to. It’s a little moment that I cherish every night as I know at some point in the future, he will no longer need that, so I savour every second of it.

My wife sits down and snuggles our daughter after dinner and a warm bath. Then I sit and rub my wife’s feet. Both of us being in the room with her while she goes to sleep has always helped.

Make a bedtime routine. For example, read books, white noise, calm before bed, no TV before bed, nice atmosphere for the baby, some warm milk.

Get them into a separate room ASAP so you don’t overreact to little noises.

Don’t be afraid to keep the room a bit warmer.

Sometimes when it takes 3 hours you just have to go with who has the most energy at that moment. But it’s teamwork your taking turns each night so someone gets some sleep. Or one person agrees to do the first hour and the other partner watches TV if goes for a walk or whatever they need, and then you swap until the job is done and at least get some down-time.

We would take turns to make them sleep so that one of us isn’t too stressed. And we accepted sometimes they take long and sometimes they do fall asleep instantly. We tried to follow a routine which certainly helped, but we figured out not to be too strict with it. Take it easy and enjoy parenthood 😊

We went to a sleep program at Ngala. Something we learnt was to close-up the room and show baby – mum held baby while dad closed the blinds, curtains, turned off lights, put on white noise machine, then dad said goodnight and leaves the room. It’s important to SHOW them that it’s bed/night-time.

Set a routine – like night showers.

Divide up tasks.  One parent gives bath, the other gets the bed ready night clothes, lighting (red), favourite music etc.

Having a routine helps.

We co-sleep.

We split tasks to ensure everyone is a part of the process. I’ll look at getting Theo changed, clean his nappy, bathe him, and deliver medicine if he’s teething. Mum will breast feed, and rock Theo to sleep.

We took it in turns to get our bub to sleep.

Our son is not a good sleeper, and the process and screaming has always exhausted my wife. These days we check each other’s energy levels before either of us volunteer to put him to bed. And even when she’s doing it, I’ll stay within earshot and jump in before either of them work themselves up too much.

When he was younger, and we were holding him to settle him, we recognised he liked the smell of mum, but the sound of dad. So, I would sing to (terribly) while my wife held him close.

Sometimes, it was as simple as me bringing her a cup of tea and a book when he fell asleep on her in the recliner.

Just a basic routine after dinner – a shower then a little bit of play and then reading, followed by a bottle and then a cuddle to sleep.

We would lay in bed together either side of her and take turns stroking her face.

Humming songs worked.

Learn to know and understand your limits. Speak up before you become frustrated or angry with the situation.

Taking it in turns and sharing what works and what doesn’t.

 

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Have real conversations with your partner while you are both happy and rested and understand what each other’s needs are around sleep and wake times.

Mum breast feeding then I would hold and bounce baby with an exercise ball. We’d also take turns settling the baby while the other parent would do dishes/tidy up. There can be a lot of friction with this part of parenting – both parents are exhausted and overworked but still have a lot to do so it was common to have verbal fights around these times, when we were both tired, hungry, sore and busy. Goodluck!

Take turns. One person sets up the room, gets the books ready etc, the other person does the settling. Similarly, take turns week about being the person who gets up with the baby so the other person can have a little sleep in.

We swapped who was responsible for settling the baby at the halfway point in our sleep window. This way, we both got a reasonable window of uninterrupted sleep, and neither one of us got frustrated from being up all night with our little boy.

We tried to have a consistent routine for bedtime. Try to have a consistent time for dinner and then bath and bed routine. Bed routine is usually a fun activity to get them into the bedroom, then calming activity (e.g. read books in bed). Then one parent usually stayed in to settle child while the other does housework.

Moving to a bigger, low to the ground bed where you can lay down with the child comfortably was helpful for us and using some heavy pillows to keep them from falling out once asleep.

I took on the role of being the primary bedtime guy from a fairly early age.

We set up routines and we used bottles to feed him as my partner didn’t get milk.

I’m pretty good at getting our baby girl to sleep. But getting her into the bassinet successfully is all but impossible unless my partner breastfeeds her to sleep first. It’d be pretty hard on my partner to take on that entire burden so often I’ll rock her to sleep first and then hand off to my partner if I can’t get her down, which means she’s stuck breastfeeding for a fraction of the time.

If I need to, I can just do a contact nap, leaving my partner free for any of the million other things we have to do. Or she can breastfeed to sleep leaving me free. We work out what’s best case by case.

Sometimes the person who has a “night off” even goes and sleeps in the spare room so they aren’t disturbed by the baby monitor and getting up and down.

We took/take turns. That is, we alternate nights so each one of us gets a better sleep every second night and then we are flexible with changes in routine/commitments.

For me it was a walk around a dark room with a rhythmical ssh ssh ssh whilst tapping the bum at the same time.

Sleep training / self-settling. Take turns in doing it and being exposed to the crying.

Dad try’s his best first then mum helps if not successful. Dad is always first to stop my son from getting to attached to mum.

Settling a baby is one of the hardest things to do. Much like negotiating with a sleep deprived gremlin. Work out what works for you. While most assistance services are not there for men, some are. It’s hard to seek help when you are often not heard. Reach out to friends or peers and discuss what works and doesn’t work.

Co-sleeping is not a sin.

I shower/wash and read to them until they’re almost ready to sleep then mum comes in to settle and feed him before bed.

Once he got older, I would sometimes use the bottle instead of breastfeeding with mum.

We don’t get her to sleep easily at all, it is by far the most stressful part about being her parents.

The best thing we’ve done is invest in an egg timer and we use it to take 20-minute shifts putting her down. It’s the only way to stay sane.

We do shifts. My wife fed baby at 7:30pm, then she would pump at 9pm and go to bed. I had the baby until midnight and gave a dream feed at about 11pm. Usually she would go down for another 4hrs at least. That meant my wife would get up to 7hrs. But even on a bad night she slept from 9pm until at least 1-2am before the first wake. And that 4-5hr block made the world of difference. I then sleep like a log so normally lasted fine until morning.

We’d also tag each other in the early years. Sometimes just a different smell or rhythm made a difference. So, if we had heard crying for like 15-20mins we’d go stick our head in and just see if a tag was what the person with the baby thought was most helpful.

Not really settling related, but I would also wash and sterilise the breast pump at dream feed time. Since it was then clean and dry it could be left out in the bedroom. This meant when my wife woke to pump at like 2-3am she didn’t have to leave the bed more than once, and if she really wanted, she could wake me to take the pumped milk and equipment to the fridge.

Big long ssshhhhh from our bed whenever he night cries re-settles him most of the time.

Don’t make it too quiet, have background relaxed noises like cooking, cleaning or quiet talking but actions to support sleeping like stroking the hair or forehead.

10 minutes on 10 minutes off. Helps manage the back bending too.

We have implemented a time limit. We try to settle for an hour and if still awake we’ll tag the other one in at any hour of the day or night. We also keep open communication on how our baby is tracking and text each other to offer support or swap. We also try to keep each other aware of how we’re doing mentally.

  1. Sometimes you need to reset and start the routine from the beginning again.
  2. At some point they need to learn how to self-settle, so leaving them to cry it out can help train that.
  3. Singing and rocking, especially deep voices can help soothe and calm.

Yeah, we work as a team. Routine seems to be key. Mum goes in and does story and puts baby to bed. 15 mins later comes out, wait a minute or two and then Dad goes in. Usually works.

Richard’s research revealed possible long-term negative impacts on the children of dads with mental health issues. Fathers’ depressive symptoms in the first year after the birth predicted behaviour problems in their children years later.

“If dads’ mental health has such a dramatic impact then we need to be screening dads for depression, not just mums,” Richard explains.

In response to these limitations, Richard and his team have designed a smart-phone based program that allows mobile connection for new and expectant dads.

Participants receive texts containing information and links, and self-report their mood. If the mood tracker identifies dads as needing extra support, they will be offered a phone call from a counsellor trained in this area.

Following the success of the pilot of the SMS4dads program, Funding was received to enable a National roll-out.

“When dad’s miss antenatal classes or activities, they also miss out on contact and links to other people.  They may never get the chance to say to anyone, look I’m really stressed,” he points out.

“SMS4dads is a way of bringing dads into the health system and keeping them linked in with services and support,” explains Richard.

Richard Fletcher

Associate Professor, PhD

Richard credits a varied career, a talented and innovative team, and much life experience for affording him the insight needed to address the challenges related to actively engaging dads.

After completing his masters in Medical Science, studying epidemiology, Richard earned his PhD focusing on fathers and attachment.

“Fathers are invisible in many places, and that is endemic. Not because people dislike fathers, but because the system is set up to be focused on mothers.”

Some services and organisations are aware of the need to engage dads, but have been unsuccessful in their attempts.

“When people are challenged about this, they generally want dads involved,” Richard affirms.

“Often, however, they just don’t know how to do it.”

Richard works with health professionals on issues related to fathers, and has delivered many antenatal programs for expectant dads.

He credits his own family with giving him an understanding of the role of fathers needed to make his work relevant.

“I have three daughters and two stepdaughters,”

“My kids would say they taught me just about everything I know and they’d be right. They’ve taught me a lot, and still do.”

Richard’s research revealed possible long-term negative impacts on the children of dads with mental health issues. Fathers’ depressive symptoms in the first year after the birth predicted behaviour problems in their children years later.

“If dads’ mental health has such a dramatic impact then we need to be screening dads for depression, not just mums,” Richard explains.

In response to these limitations, Richard and his team have designed a smart-phone based program that allows mobile connection for new and expectant dads.

Participants receive texts containing information and links, and self-report their mood. If the mood tracker identifies dads as needing extra support, they will be offered a phone call from a counsellor trained in this area.

Following the success of the pilot of the SMS4dads program, Funding was received to enable a National roll-out.

“When dad’s miss antenatal classes or activities, they also miss out on contact and links to other people.  They may never get the chance to say to anyone, look I’m really stressed,” he points out.

“SMS4dads is a way of bringing dads into the health system and keeping them linked in with services and support,” explains Richard.