Q:My husband often gets home after I’ve put our newborn to sleep. When the baby wakes for a feed though, he then plays with him. The baby is then kept awake for quite a time afterwards. How can I get baby to sleep and let his dad spend time with him as well?
A:Meg answers: It is hard when either parent works late because they miss their little one during the day and want time to bond too. This usually results in very late bedtimes (as bathtime becomes the quality time) or midnight playdates, as you are experiencing.
As much as a parent’s needs are important, at this stage your newborn’s need for sleep is paramount. So playtime and quality time needs to be based around your little one’s needs. This concept may need to be gently but firmly reinforced with your husband.
Your baby needs a bedtime no later than 7pm, so do not keep him awake to play with his dad.
If your husband can get home by 6pm to do bathtime, this is a great time to let the boys connect and bond.
If he is home once the bath is over, he needs to be calm and quiet and not engage too vigorously with the baby and certainly not wake him up once he has fallen asleep.
Your baby is at a critical age for developing healthy sleep habits, which means that between 7pm and morning, all interactions should be kept quiet and calm. The light should be kept off and your husband must not play with your son at all.
The best time for quality engagement with the baby is actually early in the morning. I would suggest that when your baby wakes for the day (any time after 5am) your husband should take him to play.
Not only is this the best time for your baby in terms of his mood and activity level but it also gives you a much needed sleep-in too. Weekends of course are the perfect times for long periods of play so encourage your husband to engage in quality playtime with his son then with these bonding tips:
Newborns: Baby massage is a fabulous way to bond through touch, eye contact and focused attention. Encourage dad to go on a baby massage class to empower himself with the right techniques.
Over six months: A wonderful quality time activity is WWW – watch, wait and wonder. In this activity, dad must take no technology (cellphones off) and just four or five toys that he knows the baby enjoys. They sit on the mat together and for 15 minutes, dad just follows his baby’s lead, playing with the toys that interest his baby and making the sounds that he does. YB