Last week I received an e-mail from a woman who wanted to try my baby sleep consulting services, but her husband doubted whether I could help them, and she was hoping I could help convince him. They had some questions for me that I promptly answered, and I’ll wait to see if they decide to contact me. But, this article is not to convince anyone to hire me (you can read testimonials or contact me directly for that), but it gave me the idea to do an article about communicating with your spouse about your baby’s sleep, in general. I don’t know about you, but when sleep was rough in our house, I was cranky, he was cranky and during the tears (the baby’s and mine), we’d bicker about what we should do next. It was hard to even think straight, let alone come up with a plan. I’ve had plenty of e-mail from parents saying that the sleep problems were affecting their marriage, too. Here are tips for communicating with your spouse (or boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, etc.).
Before you get married, one of the burning questions isn’t what your future partner’s position on sleep training is, whether they believe in cry it out, or whether they believe in co-sleeping. You discuss things like whether they want kids and maybe whether they believe in spanking, but until you have a baby who won’t sleep, you don’t really know how each of you will feel about the various ways you can help your baby sleep. Don’t assume you know how your spouse feels and make sure you open up the lines of communication.
When you’re tired and cranky, it’s easy to say the other person is wrong or be negative about their suggestions on what may or may not work. You might want to call them silly for believing cry it out will change your baby’s personality or you might be the one who believes it and think your partner is insensitive for not believing it. The key is to respect the other person’s values and philosophy because we all have a right to the way we feel and no one can tell you that you’re wrong to feel a certain way. You two might not agree, but always respect the other person’s beliefs for the best communication to happen. When someone feels belittled, they are likely to shut down and not talk at all and may even go along with what you want to do, but it will breed resentment. Acknowledge and respect their position on the sleep problems facing your family.
Both of you want the same thing: more sleep for your family. Working together is a key, but easier to say than to do. Working together isn’t always easy, especially when you’re tired and cranky. The best time to work together on a sleep plan is earlier in the day, when you, hopefully, have had the most sleep. Maybe during the baby’s first nap or after your toddler’s breakfast when he’s happily playing on his own with his blocks. The right time is not when your baby is waking up for the third time of the night or after he hasn’t napped all day AGAIN. If it helps, write down a plan that you both can sign off on, agree to, and most importantly, COMMIT to.
Many times, your baby won’t be able to read the plan you and your partner come up with. They may have just not learned that skill yet. And, things won’t go according to plan. One person may have come up with the main part of the plan and it might be tempting for the other person to say “I told you!” or blame the other person (keep in mind you always need to give any plan at least 1-2 weeks before you decide it’s not working). Or, maybe one person isn’t following the plan at all. It’s important to understand that agreeing to something at 8 a.m. in the morning is different than following through with it at 2 a.m. even with the best intentions. It might mean you just need a new plan or to start over the next day. Be supportive and try to keep each other committed to the plan.
Communication with your spouse is one of the hardest jobs in a relationship and when it comes to your kids, probably even more emotional. Our children are depending on us to do the “right” thing and the pressure mounts when we consider whether a decision today affects them for years down the road. Sleep deprivation is hard and until you go through it, I’m not sure anyone else really “gets it”. This includes your spouse if you are the one doing most of the getting up. Keep this in mind if you are the spouse who is not getting up and reading this.
In our house, I did most of the getting up with my older son (who inspired this site). We are both working parents, so it wasn’t because I didn’t have to “get up for work” like he did (I would argue that stay-at-home moms have their own “job” to do at home that needs just as much mental concentration as mine). I personally made the choice to do most of the getting up because I was breastfeeding, thought it was a waste for both of us to lose sleep, and felt he could handle my crankiness better when he got a good night’s sleep, leading to less bickering. Don’t get me wrong, on particularly bad nights, I would wake him up! I do think he let me make a lot of decisions about our sleep plan, because I was the one getting up, but he didn’t have a strong philosophy about baby’s sleep, either. I hope this article helps some of you out there with your sleep plan, including the woman who e-mailed me last week.
How was communication with your spouse about sleep? Share any tips!
Please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 (tear-free) Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.