How to Share Nighttime Feeding Duties with your Partner
Read time: 5 minutes
What should I know about sharing nighttime feeding duties?
Making a collaborative plan in the daylight hours helps make sure you’re ready to share responsibilities at night
Flexibility is key as your baby’s needs and patterns change
Sleep deprivation can have a profound impact on a family with a new baby or young children.1 For some families, assuming that one parent over another will be responsible for all nighttime duties may cause stress and resentment. Ensuring everyone gets adequate sleep is a team effort!
Ideas for how to split nighttime feeding duties when caring for a newborn
To help divide and conquer nighttime feedings and care responsibilities, consider the individual needs and schedules for yourself, your partner, and your baby.
How many children you have, whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, the status of your recovery from labor (not to mention your overall physical and mental well-being), and whether you and your partner work, are all factors to consider in devising a joint plan.
Examples of shared nighttime duty schedules
If one parent has a demanding week-day job, where losing sleep at night is not ideal, a family may decide that the working parent should be in charge of weekend night responsibilities, such as Friday and Saturday nights. In this schedule, the parent at home knows they’ll be getting at least two longer nights of sleep each week.
If both parents are back at work soon after birth, it may make sense to either have a relative stay over some nights to help with night feedings (if possible), or to alternate each night who gets up with the baby. This way each parent gets 3 to 4 nights of sleep per week.
Splitting the night
Some parents opt to split feeding and care duties each night. One parent taking the first shift, such as being responsible for baby up until midnight, at which point the other parent takes over.
One parent only
Some families choose to have just one parent take care of baby at night. To help balance out overall responsibilities, the non-nighttime duty parent may help out more during the day, such as by making dinner each night, cleaning the dishes, changing more diapers, or picking up other daytime responsibilities to help share the burden of household and parenting work.
Remember that every family is unique and what works for one family may not work for another. Being proactive and communicating about the nighttime responsibilities will make tackling those responsibilities more manageable.
Looking for more ideas of how nighttime feeding duties can be shared? Our team of registered dietitians, fellow moms, and lactation specialists are available from Monday – Friday 8 am – 6 pm (ET) and Saturday – Sunday 8 am – 2 pm (ET) to help figure out what may be going on. Chat now!
How can nighttime duties be shared when I am breastfeeding?
If you are breastfeeding your baby, it is still possible that your partner or other caregivers can help at night.
Sharing feeding duties
If nighttime feeding duties are being split and a partner or caregiver is providing baby with bottles of formula or pumped breastmilk at night, note that pumping will be an important part of maintaining your milk supply. Breastmilk production is based on supply and demand, so if baby is offered bottles at night, milk supply will go down if you are not pumping enough.2
Aim to pump the same number of times as the number of bottles given to baby. This will help to ensure that the body knows how much milk your baby needs and will make enough milk accordingly.
Some women pump while baby is being fed while others choose to pump between feeds during the day.Whichever you choose, make sure to pump around the same time every day so that the body expects the session and will make milk for it.
Sharing other responsibilities
Another option for those who prefer to continue breastfeeding at night without sharing feeding duty, is to have the partner be in charge of other nighttime responsibilities. For example, they may bring a hungry baby to be breastfed, then when baby is done eating, they would help by burping baby, changing their diaper, and getting baby back to sleep.
Breastfeeding: How to Support a Good Milk Supply
Top Tips for Pumping Breastmilk
How can I get started with sharing nighttime newborn responsibilities with my partner?
Communicate and put the plan in writing
Be proactive and have a discussion with your partner before the night comes. Map out a schedule or a plan to help avoid arguments over whose responsibility is what in the night. With a thought-out plan in place, there will be no question as to whose turn it is to wake and tend to your baby’s nighttime needs.
Decide what exactly needs to be done
Be sure everyone who is sharing in nighttime responsibilities knows exactly what those responsibilities are!
For some families, this may be as simple as knowing which bottles each parent is responsible for. Other families may have more complex logistics to consider. For example, a family welcoming their second or subsequent child may have one parent solely responsible for the bedtime routine with the older children, while another parent tends to the newborn.
Whatever the scenario for your family, figure out what the nighttime duties are and who is responsible for them so that everyone is on the same page.
Change the plan as needed
As your family grows and changes, update the nighttime plan to consider each family member’s needs. Not only will your newborn’s nighttime schedule change, but yours or your partner’s may as well!
Keep a log of daily and nightly feedings and patterns to help with planning, to adjust for changes, and to eliminate the need to wake another parent in the night with questions.
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am - 6pm (ET), and Saturday - Sunday 8am - 2pm (ET). Chat Now!
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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:
How Do I Keep My Breast or Formula Fed Baby Awake during Feedings?
What Sleep Patterns are Typical for Newborns (0-12 week olds)?
How Can I Help My Newborn Sleep Well at Night?