Hello Michael. So I am a new father. My wife and I had our daughter three months ago. The first few weeks were the toughest!! The sleepless nights. Oh the sleepless nights!! We then found our rhythm. My wife started breastfeeding in the night and then we started to get sleep! It was great! My wife didn't get her sleep like she had before the baby,but it was much better than the first couple weeks.
Last week she decided that she wasn't going to breastfeed at night. Instead, she started giving our daughter formula to keep her sleeping longer (4 hours vs. 2-3 hours breastfeeding). I can now take a more active role in nighttime feedings. However, I suffer from insomnia. I really don't have issues falling back to sleep if I wake for a minute or two, but I've found that when I help with the nighttime feedings, it's pretty impossible for me to get back to sleep. I've had a week of sleepless nights. On average, I'll sleep the three or perhaps four hours after we initially feed and put our daughter to bed. Then once she wakes, I feed her and stay awake, struggling to sleep.
She is a stay at home mother and I work. Lately I've noticed I cannot focus on my job at work and find I sometimes don't even remember the drive to work or home, as in my sleep deprived mind, everything has become fuzzy. I wish I could ask my wife to start breastfeeding at night again, but don't want to sound selfish. I know the switch to formula for nighttime feedings has helped my wife have longer stretches of sleep, but I feel it is slowly killing me. How do I approach this? She sees how this is negatively affecting me, but hasn't acknowledged it. What do I do?
I appreciate the help. Thank you.
Over the years, I've found it interesting how the bulk of questions I get are only tangentially related to the child and most often the question lies with the adult relationships. First off, I commend you for desiring an active role in caring for your daughter. Too many men miss this opportunity to bond. Yes, there are sleepless nights. Yes, this can be a strain on you, your work, even your relationship.
Remember this - This formula/breastfeeding stage is only measured in months. I did not fully grasp this with my first three children. With my fourth, I wrote my book on fatherhood, and I came to appreciate the HUGE impact my presence in my newborn's life would have down the line. I am much more closely bonded with my youngest child because of the sleepless nights and other sacrifices I made.
That said, I am a believer in communication. You should speak with your wife. This thing of you believing she sees the strain you are under and not offering to help is a danger zone. Do not jump to conclusions. If your assessment is correct, you will find it out in conversation. I would suggest a "tag team" approach where you alternate evening feedings. Again, though, this stage is not a long phase. It will last months. The "years" of parenting ahead builds on the groundwork and bonding you achieve early.
The more you bond with your daughter now, in the early stages, sets the tone for your parenting down the line. I know this first hand. Four of my six children are now out of the house on their own. The less connected and bonded you are with your child in the first two years, the tougher it is for you to connect in the volatile teenage years.
I know it is tough, but if your wife will not tag team the nighttime feedings, realize the payoff is coming down the line when you and your daughter have excellent communication lines. These communication lines are vital in the teen years. Children in the first couple years of life are soaking up information and learning at a rate parents never truly realize and on levels we have no capacity to understand. Trust me, the more you do NOW for your daughter, the closer you bond with her in these early days, the better communication benefits you will have down the line.
Parenting is a long-term process. You will be making sacrifices all along the way. Solid food will change this sleepless nights stage. But then there will be other situations which call for sacrifices.
Therefore, please, speak kindly and openly with your wife. Find a positive sharing of the nighttime feedings. Do not shy away from them, they hold great value to you as a father in years to come. Stay highly involved with your daughter every day. Keep your communication lines wide open with your wife. Talk about how you may help each other. This can help mend or shore up some of that bond that a new baby breaks down. Realize that when a baby comes into a couples' lives, an adjustment must be made by the couple. The best means to make that adjustment is through communication. Never assume you know what your wife is thinking and feeling. Talk about it.
I sincerely hope this helps.
Michael Ray King