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Are dads better at putting babies to sleep?

Getting a baby to fall asleep can be one of the most challenging parts of new parenthood. While both moms and dads struggle with this task, some research suggests that fathers may have an advantage when it comes to soothing fussy infants. This article will examine the evidence and theories behind dads’ apparent talent for bedtime.

Key Questions

  • Do studies show that dads are better at getting babies to sleep?
  • Why might fathers be more effective at putting babies down for naps and bedtime?
  • What techniques can dads use to get better at soothing babies to sleep?
  • How can moms and dads work together as a team for better baby bedtime?

Research Findings on Fathers and Baby Sleep

Several scientific studies have investigated parental differences when it comes to infant sleep. While results have been mixed, a few notable findings have emerged:

  • A 2018 study found that infants fell asleep faster and woke up less when put to bed by fathers compared to mothers. Fathers’ interactions were associated with less crying and fussing during bedtime.
  • Another study observed father-infant pairs having an easier time syncing up their communication and arousal levels, which helped babies transition smoothly to sleep. Mothers were more likely to become overstimulated and undermine the calming bedtime process.
  • Researchers speculate that hormonal and neurological differences between mothers and fathers affect their ability to regulate infant arousal and promote sleep. The more modulated, less emotional paternal style tends to work better at bedtime.
  • However, some studies have found no differences in parental ability to soothe infants to sleep. More research is still needed.

Why Are Dads Often Better at Bedtime?

Assuming fathers do tend to have an advantage over moms when putting infants to sleep, what might explain this phenomenon? Scientists propose several theories:

  • Hormonal differences – Higher estrogen and oxytocin levels in mothers make them more alert and vigilant about their babies. This can interfere with settling down infants for sleep.
  • Play style – Fathers are more likely to engage in vigorous, arousing play. They can then help babies transition from high energy to low arousal for sleep.
  • Soothing voice – The lower, rumbly tones of men’s voices can be inherently calmer and more relaxing for infants.
  • Patience – Dads are more likely to have patience with prolonged bedtime crying or fussing. Moms may intervene too quickly out of concern.
  • Less pressure – Fathers may feel less pressure or internal conflict about responding to infant cries at night.

Tips for Dads to Improve Bedtime

While some fathers may have innate talents for baby bedtime, there are also techniques dads can implement to get better results:

  • Establish a consistent, peaceful routine – bath, massage, dim lights, lullabies.
  • Pay attention to the baby’s cues – don’t put them down if they’re wide awake and alert.
  • Use white noise or monotonous shushing to relax the baby’s nervous system.
  • Employ rhythmic motions – rocking, swinging, or swaying.
  • Experiment with different holding positions to see what your baby prefers.
  • Stay calm and keep energy low – avoid loud voices or stimulating play.
  • Be patient and consistent – it may take many attempts over weeks or months.

Mastering these techniques requires dads to be observant, patient, and willing to adjust their approach based on what works best for their unique baby.

Co-Parenting for Better Sleep

For two-parent households, the most effective strategy is to divide and conquer when it comes to infant sleep. Here are some co-parenting tips:

  • Agree that one parent handles bedtime and the other takes over for night wakings.
  • Choose the parent with the most success for each role.
  • Compromise if needed – dad on duty 3 nights per week and mom on duty the rest.
  • Communicate about techniques that work.
  • Support each other so neither parent feels judged or inadequate.
  • Give each other breaks when possible.
  • Remember you’re partners in this challenge!

By sharing the load according to each parent’s strengths, both moms and dads can get better sleep.

The Bottom Line

Research and anecdotal evidence suggests that fathers may have some advantages when it comes to soothing babies to sleep. Factors like hormones, play styles, voices, patience and lower pressure could help explain why dads sometimes excel at this parenting challenge. However, moms bring their own strengths to the table as well. By dividing and conquering infant sleep issues, parents can combine their unique benefits for the ultimate bedtime success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do babies sleep better with dads?

Studies indicate babies may sleep better with dads due to hormonal differences that make fathers more relaxed and able to modulate infant arousal levels at bedtime. Dads’ deeper voices, more patience with crying, and lower-pressure parenting style also contribute.

Do babies prefer mom or dad?

Babies do not inherently prefer one parent over the other. However, at different times or for different needs, they may find one parent better at soothing them than the other. For sleep and settling, babies often respond better to fathers’ calmer energy.

Is it bad for only dad to put baby to sleep?

It is not bad for only dad to put a baby to sleep, as long as both parents are comfortable with the arrangement. Having a consistent bedtime parent helps some babies develop good sleep habits. Moms can take over at other times of day.

What are the benefits of dad putting baby to sleep?

Benefits of having dad put baby to sleep include better quality and longer sleep for the baby, lower stress and more rest for mom, stronger bonds between father and baby, and confidence for dad as a caregiver.

What if mom is better at putting baby to sleep?

If mom discovers she is better than dad at putting the baby to sleep, parents can adjust accordingly. Dad can take over at other times to give mom a break. Fathers should keep trying techniques to improve their skills as well.

Comparison of Mother vs Father Traits for Infant Sleep

Trait Mother Father
Hormone levels Higher estrogen, oxytocin Lower estrogen, oxytocin
Energy Level Higher energy Lower energy
Play Style Calmer play Active, vigorous play
Voice Higher pitched Lower pitched
Patience Less patience More patience
Concern More anxious Less anxious

This table compares common trait differences between mothers and fathers that may affect their ability to soothe infants to sleep. Fathers’ tendencies toward lower energy, deeper voices, more patience and lower anxiety lend advantages at bedtime.

Sleep Training Techniques for Fathers

In addition to inborn traits, fathers can also employ specific skills and techniques to get better at putting their babies to sleep:

Create a routine

Establishing a predictable pattern of activities leading up to bedtime helps signal to babies that sleep is approaching. Aim for the same sequence each night – bath, massage, dim lights, quiet activities, etc.

Watch for tired signs

Putting babies down when they are already overtired and wound up can backfire. Look for rubbing eyes, yawning, disengagement and fussiness as cues to start the bedtime process.

Use sound and motion

The white noise of a fan or sound machine can lull babies to sleep. Rhythmic rocking, swinging, swaying or jiggling also triggers calming reflexes.

Experiment with positions

Try different holds during soothing – tummy down, vertically, cradled, etc. See what most effectively rocks your baby into dreamland based on their preferences.

Stay cool and low-key

Keep activity, visual stimulation and your own energy dialed down in the lead up to bed. Maintain a boring but soothing vibe.

Wait it out

Babies often have to vent or protest before giving in to sleep, especially if they are worked up. Quietly riding out the crying helps them settle.

Sleep Setbacks for Babies – Causes and Solutions

Even when parents feel they have bedtime figured out, sleep setbacks can occur. Here are some common causes of baby sleep regressions and how to get back on track:

Cause Solution
Developmental leap Revert to basics – swaddle, white noise, motion. It will pass.
Illness Comfort, check with doctor, give recovery time.
Teething Cold teether, massage gums, painkiller before bed.
Sleep transition Wait it out, maintain consistency, provide security item.
Disruption of routine Get back to schedule, no nighttime stimulating play.
Regression period Reassure and retrain with previous sleep strategy.

Understanding the many causes of sleep regression can help parents ride out the temporary setbacks without panic. Maintaining sleep-promoting strategies and consistency gets babies sleeping well again.

Should Moms Feel Inadequate if Dad is Better at Bedtime?

It’s common and understandable for mothers to feel self-conscious or inadequate if their partner seems better at soothing the baby to sleep. Here are some perspectives to keep in mind:

  • Baby sleep involves lots of trial-and-error – it’s not a reflection of parenting ability.
  • Each parent has their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Biology and hormones play a major role.
  • Roles often shift as babies grow older.
  • You’re still an amazing mom even if bedtime is hard!
  • Use dad’s successes to your benefit – better sleep for all.
  • Talk to your partner about how you feel.
  • Remember all the things you uniquely provide as mommy.

If dads seem better at putting baby to sleep, moms should avoid blaming themselves. Tap into the partner’s skills for everyone’s advantage instead of feeling guilty or incapable.

In Conclusion

Getting infants to sleep is one of parenthood’s biggest challenges that often taps into mothers’ and fathers’ different trait. While moms offer tremendous strengths in caring for babies, several studies indicate dads may have an edge when it comes to bedtime. Factors like hormones, play style, patience and lower pressure could explain this discrepancy. However, parents’ roles are fluid and complex. By dividing duties, learning from each other and offering mutual support, mothers and fathers can work together as a team to overcome baby sleep struggles.