Who Gets Up With the Baby?

Before we were married, Ben and I had a long discussion about division of household chores.  He suggested, and I agreed, that if he works full-time, I would also work full-time doing the household chores.  When he came home, we would share the remainder of the tasks.

This worked well.  In the beginning, we both worked part-time and attended school full-time and shared the household chores.

After we had Emily, things changed.  I quit working but continued to attend school full-time.  It seemed natural that I would take care of the household chores.

After a couple of months, we realized we needed to re-evaluate this division.  It was nearly impossible for me to take care of a colicky baby, finish homework, and stay on top of meals, dishes, and laundry.  Thus, Ben began cooking and cleaning more.  I focused on the laundry.  It worked rather well.

Breaking up household tasks was easy.  Breaking up who gets up with the baby was harder, is still hard.

With Emily, Ben and I would both get up.  He would change the diapers, I would take care of the feedings (obviously).  It was an arrangement that worked quite well.

When Andrew arrived, things changed.  I was no longer juggling school and mothering.  I became a fully certified stay-at-home mom.  Ben, though, is busier.  Between 4 part-time jobs (equaling about 20-25 hours per week total), 16-17 credits of pre-med courses, and MCAT studying, his time is limited.  He stays up later than me and usually gets up earlier than me.  It seemed logical, in my mind, that he forgo night time duties.  I didn’t explain this shift to him, I just stopped waking him up at night.

A week or so ago, I explained to Ben that Andrew would probably sleep longer through the night if I would get up to change him rather than just allowing him to find comfort in eating.  I just don’t want to deal with getting up and changing him.  So, because of my laziness, I am actually getting less sleep. Ben reminded me that he can also help.  If I give him Andrew, he would be happy to change him.  Yet, it seems illogical that both of us lose sleep.  I figure that since I am home all day, I should solely handle Andrew at night.

My question for you is this.  Should I include Ben in night time tasks if he is already getting less sleep than I am?  If yes, how can I do this without burdening him even more?

Alternatively, any advice on kicking my lazy habit of not changing Andrew’s diaper in the middle of the night? That is probably more pressing.

Thank you, in advance, for any advice you share.


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24 responses to “Who Gets Up With the Baby?

  1. I have no idea. The sleeping duties is tough. I would probably have him help on the weekends maybe?

  2. You could try it once over the weekend, and if it works, if Andrew sleeps better, it will benefit everyone.

  3. When Neil was in school I did the night shift exclusively…EXCEPT when I was sick or especially overtired/overwhelmed. I essentially “saved him up” for when I really needed it. That way he wasn’t overburdened, but when I was I got the help I desperately needed at times.

    Now that Neil is working full time we take turns, except when one of us is sick or overwhelmed. When Neil was sick last week I took all the shifts for a week to let him get much needed rest.

    As for the diaper thing I do that too! The eerieness continues!

  4. I personally never changed my kids diapers during the night after they were a couple weeks old. I noticed by changing it, it would make them more awake, and they really didn’t need it, anyway. And I still don’t. They wake up with a fairly soaked diaper, but that never hurt anyone. And when they start soaking through the diaper by morningtime, I just put a size bigger on at night. Sorry if that’s kinda gross, but it works for us, and saves money on diapers, too.
    As for the nighttime duties, Eric and I would switch off night feedings because Camie was fed with a bottle. But I am such a light sleeper, and Eric such a heavy sleeper, that I would have to wake him up to do it. And then I would lay there for like 20 minutes wide awake until he was done and the baby was asleep again. So I eventually just did it all myself, because I figured that there is no point in waking him up when I am awake already. And I kept that same philosophy for Luke, too. I would rather do it myself anyway, because I know the baby will go back to sleep faster with me anyway. : )
    I know other couples that switch though, and it works for them. It’s really nice of your hubby to offer!! And make sure to take him up on the offers when you are feeling sleep-deprived!! Good luck!

  5. Allyson

    Once the twins got older and were sleeping through the night off-and-on, I decided that I would solely get up with them during the night since I woke up before Larkin every time. Larkin told me later that not only did he not mind getting up with them, he actually WANTED to get up with them more often because he didn’t get to see them much during the day. The night sometimes allowed him more one-on-one time (usually snuggle time) with the kids(s). Maybe Ben feels the same.

  6. I don’t know the right answer, but I must say it sounds like you have a wonderful husband. I have worked full-time since the birth of my first child and have done all of the getting up and stuff on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I have a good husband too but I just took all of that responsibility. However, now that they are all out of diapers and older he is the one to get up in the night with them now. I feel like it’s his turn. That’s fair right? Especially since they don’t get up all that often now. Those are tough days. Good luck figuring things out. It does sound like the two of you communicate very well though so it shouldn’t be too bad.

  7. Amber,
    Thanks for your comment on my blog today. Since I’m new to your blog, I won’t presume to give you advice. But I will wish you and your husband the best! Good luck–it sounds like you really have a great marriage.

  8. This is so tricky. There is no right way to handle this. I do think it is sweet that your busy man is willing to sacrifice his sleep to help. I also think this is fair. Your son is both of yours and it seems logical for you to both wake up at night – at least some of the time? Goodness, I have no idea what I am talking about. But I think this is a wonderful post and I hope you get some advice more solid than this meandering comment!

  9. I second that Ben is a sweetie to think of you and his babies before his own sleep when you’re giving him the out.

    Husband and I have arranged it so that nights when he works, I get up early with the twins. Nights when I have to get up at 4 to be to work on time, he stays up later with them. It’s very by-ear because the twins are starting to transition into more stable sleeping patterns, but it is working for us.

    I thought that Bryan would appreciate sleeping through the night, but he told me once that he simply doesn’t want to miss any part of their babyhood – even the sleepless nights. Let Ben decide if will or won’t stay up with baby for you.

  10. A sleeping baby is a happy baby. Unless there was something that HAD to be changed, no one was waking up a sleeping baby in my house. I always went with the basic idea that the baby would tell me soon enough if he/she had to be changed.

  11. I would do the night time stuff while the babies were little like that and wanted to nurse, etc. But later you can call on your husband to help when he can be more a part of it. Just my thought.

  12. My husband never got up in the night with Bella. #1) He didn’t hear her cry whereas I woke up upon the first tiny whimper. #2) He had to be at work at 7 am and my work day started when I wanted it to.

    I like the idea of giving any new arrangement a try when both you and Ben will be home the next day in case it’s a long, sleepless night.

  13. I never changed my kids during the night. I think it is wonderful that he is offering to help even though he is getting less sleep and I wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. During medical school things get crazy and they need as many ways to stay connected to family as they are capable of handling. So if he thinks he can do it, let him take turns sometimes.

  14. I never changed kids during the night either. Although, Alayna is wet almost every single morning right now. I hear the expensive diapers such as huggies or pampers work for that though. I need to get me some.

    My mom once told me to never refuse a man’s help because then he will cease offering it. I know its so hard and crazy for him now but if he would like to help, even if its just a little, I say let him!

  15. Nicki

    Unless they were soaked through and that was what woke them, I never changed my children’s diapers in the middle of the night. Oh yeah, I would if they smelled.

    Have you asked Ben if your getting up wakes him anyway? I found out that with the first three – I went from one to three – my getting out of bed woke up my ex – not a full waking but enough that he knew one of the kids was crying. If Ben is waking anyway, maybe let him get up occasionally. Make it known that you appreciate his offer but want him to let you know if it is too much. It will require a huge commitment to honesty and communication for Ben and you to do this without it wearing him down more than you want.

  16. Ugh. So hard. Always let sleeping babes lie. (Or is that dogs? Or husbands?)

    No matter what I tried, I ended up with all the night duty. Years of it. My ex could sleep through an earthquake. (Come to think of it, he has.)

    Yep. Try the weekend. But it’s more a matter of who is functional on which amounts of sleep, not a side-by-side comparison of hours.

  17. ck

    I know this comment won’t help at all, but you are AWESOME for really taking time to consider this (many women wouldn’t) and you have an AWESOME husband.

    (And I’m not sure if I’ve said this before, but I love your header. Such a great photo.)

  18. This is tricky, but I would just go ahead and get up or figure out a way to change his diaper in the middle of the night and just remember that this time of sleepless nights is only temporary. Is there any way you can structure your day so that you can squeeze in a little nap? Can you go to bed earlier so that when that middle-of-the-night crying begins you will at least fell like you got a little bit of sleep?

    My husband works a lot and I take responsibility of all of the household chores and the care of the children. So for me, going to bed an hour earlier (1030 instead of 1130) makes a huge difference for the night-time stuff I have to deal with.

  19. I’m with some of the other moms above: when my little guys were still waking up at night, I wouldn’t change them unless they were stinky or had leaked through.

    Does Andrew ever take a bottle of expressed milk? That was one thing that helped us when my boys were smaller: I would head to bed early some nights and Husband would stay up to feed the baby with a bottle of expressed milk and then turn in himself. That way I could get some extra sleep on the early end of things so those long nights of getting up weren’t quite as bad.

  20. jen

    Change diapers in the middle of the night? I think in more than 5 years of diapers, I have done that approximately 10 times, and that includes the newborn stage.
    I’m afraid I have no great wisdom for you. Nighttime parenting is, in my experience, the part of parenting that is most like being thrown into a fire. You survive any way you can, knowing that the flame will re-ignite the next night. Just hang in there. And, good for you and your husband for making it a priority to talk about this and work it through. Quite astounding, I think. I’m more of a “deal with it when it happens” gal. I like your approach!

  21. m&m

    I agree with whoever said you are awesome for caring at all. Sounds like you two have a good partnership.

    One thought that came to my mind is that you don’t need to make the decision for him. If he is offering, maybe that is what he really wants to do. So, maybe, just try it and see if it works. You can always revisit the issue in a few days or weeks.

    I think we can sometimes make life harder (I know I do anyway) by trying to make decisions on what *I* think others would want or need, rather than letting them help me really know what they think and need. Does that make sense?

    I agree, too, that if he really doesn’t need it, letting him nurse back to sleep quickly before you both get too “awake” with the diaper change process is something to consider, too.

    • I really like this advice, Michelle. You are very right. I shouldn’t be making the decision for Ben. If he wants to help, I should let him help. I do have a habit of making things more complicated than they should be. : )

  22. I wish I had some good advice for you but I don’t. Nighttime duties are tricky and even more so when your husband is willing but also sleep deprived. It sounds like you have a really loving, equal relationship, and that is the most important thing. The stage won’t last forever, thankfullly!!

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