This is how we do it: the night shift

I have always been curious about how people live their lives, even more so now that I am a parent and thus constantly looking for ways to get through, if not necessarily improve. For the next few weeks – or until I get tired of it – I’ll be sharing (way too many) details about our life with a kid.

Jav is just shy of six months old. I’ll start by sharing our current “routine,” (if one can call anything with a baby a routine without it immediately changing just for funsies) and then I’ll note what life was like when he was younger.

I always wondered how people negotiated baby sharing between mom and dad. We’ve been formula feeding for a long time, so we have more opportunity for an equal share, but like many couples, we tend to adjust based on our natural talents.

I’m Snuggle Mom, so I do most of the overnight shifts. (Funny story: if you asked my husband, he’d swear we split them equally. He is wrong. On average, he’ll do one or two nights a week but they are apparently SO EXHAUSTING that they feel like four or five days.) Barring the four weeks or so when he was in Four Month Sleep Regression Hell, he wakes up maybe once and goes right back to sleep if I help him find his pacifier. Around 5:30, I can hear him babbling and fussing* but I ignore him until after 6 on principle, then we get up and he gets his first bottle of the day. Depending on how generous I’m feeling, I’ll feed him and lay him back down for snoozing, or I’ll wake Joey up and let him deal.

I’ll cover feeding later, but note that we put one ounce of 100% apple juice in his morning bottle for digestive reasons.

My husband is Fun Dad, so early mornings are a good time for he and Javi. They dance to 80’s music, play silly games involving bouncing and jumping and fake horse rides, and talk up a storm while I grab an hour or two of sleep. I’ll share more about our mornings in another post.

For me, one of the more challenging aspects of being a good partner has been identifying what I’m feeling before I blow my top, and “resentful” is one I pay special attention to. Sometimes I’ll notice I’m inexplicably angry at Joey, other times it starts as envy or jealousy, but regardless of the clue, if resentment is the cause, it’s time for him to do an overnight shift or two.

Why don’t we share them more equally? Because equal and equitable are not the same thing. I am better at feeding Jav and getting him back to sleep. Joey is way more fun in the mornings. And, truth be told, when Joey does night shift, I wake up to an overtired Jav and Daddy watching TV at 5 am. I try to stay out of his parenting, stick to gratitude for the uninterrupted sleep, and keep my comments to myself… then pick up my grumpy baby, tell him it’s time for a nap and put him in his crib to snooze. He seems grateful too.

Hmmm, what other details would you care about? When he fusses at night, I do not take him out of his crib unless he’s clearly uncomfortable for some reason or has leaked all over his bed. Wardrobe change! I will help him find his pacifier if he’s rooting around. He can and does fall sleep without it, but sometimes it just helps us all get back to sleep sooner. I didn’t DO anything to create this situation, just let him tell me if he needs it or not.

I do not generally bring him to bed with me. (If I do, we go to the guest room.) This is less about my preferences or principles and more that my son is my husband’s child, and neither like to be touched while sleeping. Cue mama’s snuggly heart wailing, ha. Inevitably, “co-sleeping” with my kid ends up with me clinging to one side of the bed while he’s starfished across most of it, grunting in annoyance if I touch him. We did this for those four weeks around four months because he was waking so often it kept me from stumbling across the hall every hour, but even then he slept better in his crib.

I do not feed him unless he’s clearly hungry. My kid is a fantastic communicator (thanks, Jav): if he’s hungry, he smacks his lips and cries this pathetic heart-is-broken cry with an upside down smile.

Oh, right, one last thing: he sleeps in footie pajamas and a sleep sack, with a radiant heater in his room set to 68-ish, white noise machine going all night (rain + wind + heartbeat), with one blanket for snuggling, a small quilt folded over his lower half, and a stuffed animal all in his crib.

I know, I know, bad sleeping stuff going on there. The stuffed animal is big and heavy so he can’t throw it around his crib; it stays between him and the bars and he pushes his face into it when he needs more darkness. (“Thin-lidded,” they call him at day care.) The snuggle blanket is on the other side, under his arm, and he rubs his fingers along the flannel as he’s falling asleep. His lower half lays on top of one half of the quilt with the other half folded over up to his waist. If it’s chilly, he leaves it. If he gets hot, he kicks it off.

What did I miss that inquiring minds want to know?


*This is the fourth or fifth post I’ve published with an asterisk that I never explained later. Annoying! I used to struggle to identify “fussing” when my baby was younger, so this is my attempt at clarifying what I’ve learned so far. What I call fussing in my child is not any of the following sounds:

“Aaaaaa-aaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaah.” {tired crying, if he’s not settled in five or ten minutes, he needs help – a pat on the belly, a hug, a snuggle}

“Waaaaa! Waaaaaa!” {needs something, usually because he’s covered in pee}

“Uhuhuhuhuhuh.” {trying to fall asleep, generally resolves it himself}

“Blahblahblahblah.” {awake! hello! sleepy time is over}

“Eeeeeeeee!” {party. time. *crap*}

Fussing is more like: “uuuuh. uuuuuh. uuuuuuh” and warrants some form of aid, like a pacifier or pat on the belly.


4 thoughts on “This is how we do it: the night shift

  1. I am just loving these. I think that your lesson about resentment is going to be so helpful for me later – I already do this sometimes in regards to cleaning and cooking, because it used to be so equitable but now S is studying, so it’s less so.

    You are such the expert on your kid dude! Amazing.

  2. I’m loving these posts too! It’s so interesting to see how someone else handles these things. My husband and I alternate nights with my daughter. There are two exceptions – when she wakes up many times in the night (more than two either because sick or inexplicable reasons!) or when I travel. We actually try to split this job equally between the two of us. Other things are split based on ability and likes of each of us…for example, I do her laundry and my husband rocks her to sleep 90% of the time (most nights I’m running around cleaning up the house, getting her stuff ready for daycare, etc). We share bottle duty, diaper changing, etc. I drop off at daycare and he picks up. I take on more of the doctor’s appts because my work is more flexible with that stuff.

    • @Tiffany, By the way, good call on the feeding post. I was hesitating to post about that because we haven’t *quite* figured it all out, but I think I’ve found a strategy that works well enough to share, so I’ll post about that tomorrow, probably…
      … unless I find enough time to post about the whole “single child” thing (I want one child, this seems to appall many people).

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