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Is it even possible to have equal roles when raising a baby?
July 29, 2012 7:44 AM   Subscribe

How can I accept the gender imbalance in my relationship now that we're parents of a young, breastfed baby? Help me be less resentful of my husband!

My husband and I have a very funny and enjoyable five month old baby. He's really delightful and we love him very much, but he is still a young baby and a lot of work. I'm currently on a break from my studies to be with the baby full time, but I'll be resuming my studies again in September and in the meantime, am try to get some writing done when I can.

My husband and I generally have a very good relationship and both believe in having an egalitarian marriage. However, I'm getting increasingly frustrated and resentful, and to be honest, lonely, now that we have a small baby.

To be fair, my husband does do quite a bit with the baby - watching him some mornings after a hard night, playing with him in the evening, giving him a bath - and he does many household chores (about half or more of the cooking, most of the laundry, unloading the dishwasher).

However, realistically, much of the weight of taking care of the baby falls on me. As well as doing most of the baby care during the day, I'm also doing most of the night care as well. Our son is still waking every 2-3 hours at night wanting milk, so I co-sleep with him while my husband sleeps in the other room. After his bath, the baby generally wants a feed before bed, so I spend 45 minutes in the evening putting him to bed, and then jumping up later in the evening when he wakes up wanting a top-up. Since I'm breastfeeding (and since he's a hungry little boy), any break from him is generally 2 hours or less, unless I've found the time to pump, in which case I might get another hour or two.

I enjoy breastfeeding and love our baby, but when I see my husband having a full night's rest, having the energy to socialise late with guests, being able to stay up late enough to watch television programs that we'd both enjoy, having the freedom to drop by the gym after work or playing cricket for 8 hours on Saturday, being able to enjoy a few glasses of wine, and just generally be more of his old self than me, I feel jealous and lonely, as well as disappointed that we seem to be drifting towards traditional gender roles.

We'd like to have another baby sometime in the future, but I'm not sure if I can take another pregnancy and babyhood of little sleep, much uncomfortableness, and many restrictions while he merrily eats brie, drinks beers, and sleeps.

Please reassure me that our roles will eventually even out. I love my husband and our son very much, but I'm just so tired and feel like I'm attached to the baby 24/7.

In the meanwhile, how can I deal with these petty feelings of resentment?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (80 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've never been a mother, but I know this one thing very well. When you have negative emotions, trying to talk yourself out of them, or shame yourself out of them, will only make it worse. You have to accept that you're resentful; in my experience, this is an enormous relief in itself. It's okay to be resentful -- it's okay to feel anything that you feel. What you do about it is what matters between you and your husband.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:50 AM on July 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


I'm only 23 and a dude and know next to nothing about taking care of babies, but is there any way you can pump as much breast milk as possible and tell your husband, 'dude, all the milk is (in the fridge?), I'm going out to hang out with friends. Peace!'
posted by 6spd at 7:56 AM on July 29, 2012 [33 favorites]


Most couples I know have helped smooth these things out a bit with more pumping. That way they can either take turns feeding the baby, or maybe mom does breast feeding during the day, and dad gets up at night to provide bottles.

Whether or not this solution works for you, it really does sound like feeding is the main issue that is keeping things from being equal for you guys. Once your kiddo is eating food that doesn't come from you, I really think things will even out a lot more in terms of responsibilities. Hang in there!
posted by vytae at 7:56 AM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


You are doing all the evolutionarily appropriate baby-rearing things, like co-sleeping and breast-feeding on demand, but your context is not evolutionarily appropriate. Single women were never solely responsible for babies- they had whole communities of women to help them, particularly grandmothers. Do you have any family members that you can draw on for support nearby? Are you a member of the local La Leche League or other support group for new mothers? Would you be averse to pumping and leaving your son with a good babysitter while you and your husband have a date night?
posted by melissam at 7:58 AM on July 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


It sounds like your husband is doing slightly more than half of the household chores. Perhaps he could be doing more like 90%?
posted by insectosaurus at 7:59 AM on July 29, 2012 [59 favorites]


You're not being petty. When I was breastfeeding my husband did 100% of the cooking and grocery shopping, 100% of the cleaning, and 100% of the laundry. There is no way one of us would be out doing anything for 9 hours a day! He needs to be doing his share instead of assuming that since you're at home you are available to do the chores. You're not. You're doing a very difficult physical job.

The other answer is formula; since I weaned at around 7.5 months I feel much happier and less resentful in general. Were I to have another child I would probably start formula feeding at a much earlier age. For a while we did combination feeding, so my partner always gave at least one bottle of formula a day (that painful first morning bottle at 6am) while I slept. Very sanity-saving.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:10 AM on July 29, 2012 [18 favorites]


Equal roles doesn't mean 50-50 all the time. There are times, like now, when your role is more prominent, and there will be times, like the sports-coaching years (example), when your partner's role is more prominent. You feel resentful now, he will feel resentful then. Or when he's working two jobs to pay the mortgage. And someone will feel resentful when the other is sick and they have to balance work and school and kids. Or when one gets promoted and the other feels that their job is "less important." All of it is normal & reasonable.

You are just at the beginning of two decades of see-sawing priorities for yourselves individually and collectively. Communication is the only thing that will make it work. If you feel resentful, say "hey, I'm getting grumpy here and need a full night's sleep and some grownup time. I'm going to start pumping more so there's always a milk supply in the freezer. You with me?" And then keep communicating as your needs change, and encourage him to communicate with you too. Good luck.
posted by headnsouth at 8:11 AM on July 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


Also, I say formula instead of pumping because I never saw pumping as a break. It is a pain in the ass, you end up with a bunch of extra shit to wash, and you're tethered to a machine which you have to take out with you if you go out...hence the single bottle of formula.

Soon your baby will be starting solids and that will be an enormous help to you in terms of feeding, so keep that in mind and hang in there.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:13 AM on July 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, and tell him to stop watching all your TV shows together! He needs to save them for when you're both able to watch them!

Honestly I am not knocking your husband here but he needs to get his shit together in terms of being considerate of your feelings. When I was breastfeeding I often felt left out and lonely and the solution was for the people around me to recognize that and not rub it in my face when they got to do awesome stuff that I didn't. Breaking Bad can wait until you can both watch it as a couple.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:15 AM on July 29, 2012 [19 favorites]


We have a four-month-old, so very similar situation. (I'm the man in the relationship.) I can confirm it's hard. The current parenting advice ihas swung around to being very, very mom-centric -- the pediatric anthropology book we read together while pregnant uses the word "father" a few times in the first few pages and then never again.

We've had a good situation because I'm transitioning between grad school and an academic job, which means I've effectively been able to take the summer off. But with two full-time stay-at-home parents we both feel like you do -- exhausted, overworked, and occasionally resentful of the other one.

We were forced to switch away from breastfeeding to pumping due to the baby's acid reflux early on, and it actually made a huge difference in the distribution of labor -- not only did it allow me to feed the baby (at any time of day) but it also was a couple hours a day of guaranteed "alone" time for my wife while she pumped. You might try that. I think you should also bring your concerns to your husband about ways he might help out more during this time -- he can DVR the Daily Show so he's up earlier to help in the mornings, for instance, and cut out the wine and socializing until you can both enjoy it. Talk to him and tell him you need a more even split.
posted by gerryblog at 8:16 AM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Your current arrangement sounds too imbalanced to me. A talk is in order. In my opinion, these duties need to be renegotiated all the time throughout the life of the child, as certain tasks become easier or harder to manage along with the child. Most of all, I think it helps when the dad's help comes at concrete, expected times (and then he pitches in at other times as well). It'll help you feel more productive when you know that "your" time is coming, and help you disengage your thoughts from your child for that time and feel more free, more like yourself. Also, the fixed arrangement helps sidestep keeping score (and therefore resentment).
posted by misoramen at 8:16 AM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


We did a sort of overlapping shift - I (the husband) would stay up later and put the baby to bed (with expressed milk or formula). My wife would go to bed early and get some unbroken sleep. Once the baby was asleep, I would go to sleep and night feeds would be her responsibility - that way she could get some extra sleep in the morning after I'd gone to work. That still led to quite a lot of broken nights for both us (but rarely both at the same time) and we both had the odd day where we'd just swap if one of us was exhausted. That was a lot easier because we were using formula milk at least some of the time, but perhaps there's some useful ideas there to balance things out a bit.

The other thing we found was that we both resented each other for having things "easier" at different points. Bear that in mind - both of you may separately feel that you have taken on a bigger share of the work, whereas in fact it's just that the total work has increased by more than you expected!
posted by crocomancer at 8:16 AM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


while he merrily eats brie, drinks beers, and sleeps.

I too have a breastfed baby. I eat brie, and I drink beer and have a glass of wine. I mean, you can't, you know, get rip roaring drunk or anything, but there's nothing wrong with having one beer or one glass of wine between nursings. And I don't respond well to the pump --- I get one oz for fifteen minute pumping session no matter what I do and, to top it all off, my daughter refuses to take the bottle at home, though she has no problems with it at daycare.

I also have a toddler who demands my attention, so you can imagine the craziness in our house when I was on maternity leave with both of them at home everyday on my own because all of my friends work. So when my baby was about your baby's age, I took a day for myself. I packed up toys, diapers, wipes, my knitting, and spent entire days with her at the yarn shop. She'd fall asleep on my lap or play with the toys I brought and amuse everyone there. I'd splurge on some amazing soup from an amazing soup place and hang out with the other ladies at the shop.

There are things you can do with a breastfed baby ---- you might just have to get creative, and you shouldn't be apologetic about doing them. I just one day upped and told my husband this is what I was doing with my Saturdays. And I did it.
posted by zizzle at 8:16 AM on July 29, 2012 [15 favorites]


This would have been written by my wife about 15 months ago, and the answer we found was that sadly it's hard at this point and you need to talk about these feelings actively and often.

My wife didn't pump, so she felt very much like you do, she couldn't get the volume and the time set aside to make pumping effective for us, so until the baby started going more hours without feeding she was attached. Those are probably the darkest times for us in the whole process thus far, simply because there is not a whole lot about the boob leash that can be handled without stored supply or moving to formula.

For us it wasn't so much the feeding as it was the sleep deprivation, and we handled it by the feeding lasting only as long as it needed to take and then I took the baby and dealt with her from that point on, this was especially important at night because it got her past that point of expecting mom to snuggle with her and feed her for a drawn out period and it started slowly increasing her sleep.

Anecdotally (because we still haven't caught up with the baby book), I think we started introducing solids in the form of rice cereal at this point, simply so we could start filling her up before bed. All kids are different, and ours was a HORRIBLE sleeper, but I think at this point we were every 4-5 hours between feedings at night, but it took a bunch of strategies to get there, the primary one being focussing on tanking her up, the other making sure she saw it was dad and not mom who she was going to be interfacing with and thus there was smaller motivation for her to wake up. We followed this same general pattern over the last 15 months as we've gotten her stretched out to 8pm to 6am sleep, which is about as good as we've ever had.

My advice, in summary, is to talk about it and be prepared to shift things up quite a bit. At one point we certainly did a pumping session in the morning to build up an extra 4-8oz of milk to really super tank her up at night before sleep or to give it to her for the first wake up. We both think this was later, maybe ay 7-9 months. It's blurry. We totally sympathize. Hang in there and talk about it, it totally gets better, and it gets better faster if you keep the dialogue going and both give and take a bit and are willing to shift things up to start stretching that night time sleep out as long as possible.
posted by iamabot at 8:17 AM on July 29, 2012


On pumping: we're renting a hospital grade pump, so she only has to do it a few times a day and the machine does all the work. We've also been supplementing with formula the entire time (and are switching to all formula when I go back to work in August).

I'd try both as a way of having your husband more involved in feeding.
posted by gerryblog at 8:18 AM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just totally contradicted myself, we did pump a bit, but it wasn't a ton and it probably only lasted 2 months but ti got us stretched out. Weird, sorry about the contradiction.
posted by iamabot at 8:20 AM on July 29, 2012


Your husband needs to sleep with you and the baby. That's serious bonding time there for all three of you.
posted by roboton666 at 8:22 AM on July 29, 2012 [26 favorites]


Maybe you could look at the situation from a different point of view? For instance: you're not carrying more of the weight; you're getting far more than your share of quality time with your baby. You're doing more bonding. You're getting to enjoy every precious moment of his infanthood, which will be over far too soon. Maybe if you are able to think of it that way, you won't feel as resentful?

I'm not being critical of you, btw. I've been there too, and it is hard! But 31 years later, I'm glad I got to spend all that time with my baby then.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:22 AM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your baby is old enough to sleep through the night, preferably in his own room so that you can go back to sleeping with your husband. Train him now! Your lack of sleep is messing you up and messing up your relationship with your husband. Your husband can get very involved in helping the baby sleep through the night while you sleep peacefully.
posted by mareli at 8:23 AM on July 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


(Shouldn't have said the machine does ALL the work. She's still actively expressing the milk. She's looking forward to being done with the machine entirely next month. But it's better than breastfeeding was for sure.)
posted by gerryblog at 8:25 AM on July 29, 2012


Just playing devils advocate but really if your baby is 5 months old there is nothing wrong with switching to formula and working away from co sleeping. If you are on formula your husband can take a nights feed here or there to help you out so you feel more human.
posted by wwax at 8:27 AM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Talk to him about it. Perhaps he can spend more time with baby, perhaps there are specific things he can do to help. I'm sure both of you will work it out but you need to let him know how you feel.
posted by gadha at 8:31 AM on July 29, 2012


You might speak to your pediatrician about cutting down on the number of times he feeds and working on sleep training. A blogger I read cut out some of her night feedings and her baby started sleeping longer, making everybody a lot happier.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:40 AM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anecdotally, I have friends who are very, very happy with their equal parenting arrangements. They have great full time daycare options which let them go back to work full time at three months. I don't think they co-sleep or exclusively breast feed.

I co-slept and breastfed. I went back to work at a 3/4 schedule. I was mostly pretty happy about how it worked out with kid #1. However, it was much harder to maintain with a second kid, demanding career change for both of us (especially him), and some family health problems. Once the scales had started to tip away from equal, it became harder and harder to move back to the middle.

In retrospect, if maintaining an equal parenting relationship had been my main goal, following my friends' model would have been far more successful.
posted by instamatic at 8:44 AM on July 29, 2012


Yeah, the first thing that jumps out at me is that he should be sleeping with you. Even if the night feeding are going to come from the boob rather than from a bottle of pumped milk, he should get to share in the thrice nightly wakeups. Even if he only wakes up for a minute then rolls over and goes back to snoring, it is still shared adversity and quality bonding.
posted by 256 at 8:46 AM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


With both my kids, we ended up having my husband take a couple of night feedings (with either pumped milk or formula). Just getting several hours of unbroken sleep was a HUGE help for me. Once I was less sleep deprived, other things seemed much less overwhelming.

There's no reason you can't have a glass of wine or beer, especially if he's taking care of a night feeding. If you drink enough to get drunk, you could pump & dump your milk and give a bottle for that feeding. If it's only a glass or two, though, you can nurse as normal; a single beer isn't going to really put alcohol into your milk.

I found those first 6 months to be especially exhausting and lonely. It WILL get easier as the baby grows a bit & is less dependent on you. Feel free to memail me if you want.
posted by belladonna at 8:49 AM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Now that I wrote that down, I realize that of all the parenting arrangements amongst my friends and aquaintances, across the scale from mom staying home full time to two full time working parents to dad staying home full time, the only ones I know where both partners seem happy with their parenting equality are ones where BOTH parents follow the stereotypical "involved Dad" work and parenting pattern: work full time, play with kid lots when they are home, split chores equally and/or hire out, feel no guilt about how they should be "doing more" with their kids. (I kind of envy them, not the least for their total self-confidence that this is the right path for their family.)
posted by instamatic at 8:55 AM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, it isn't equal. I have a nearly 4 year old and it still isn't equal. My kid still prefers me. And when he wakes up, it is still me that gets up.

But with cosleeping, you should start to get more sleep if you can learn to only half wake-up. Why isn't he in bed with you guys?

I agree with others that pumping is more work than breastfeeding and probably isn't a good solution for day-to-day.

But your husband needs to get in the trenches with you. No more going out with friends or the gym. 8 hours of Cricket? Fuck that. (And Fuck that even more if he works and you stay home.). When he's not working, it is home time. He needs to be home with you and baby and doing more household chairs. Friends or cricket is a special treat. Just like you can have a special treat night out with girlfriends.

Deal with this now or it is going to get worse.
posted by k8t at 8:55 AM on July 29, 2012 [15 favorites]


A dad here, 2 young kids, one infant being breastfed, my thoughts on your thoughts, and then some tips below:
when I see my husband having a full night's rest [no problem, not his fault--why are people recommending that he be woken up multiple times at night when it's only necessary for one person to wake up? co-sleeping does away with all of this], having the energy to socialise late with guests [not really his fault, but why are guests staying late?], being able to stay up late enough to watch television programs that we'd both enjoy [meh, but I agree he should wait to watch them with you], having the freedom to drop by the gym after work [whaaaat get the eff home and tag team that baby's needs] or playing cricket for 8 hours on Saturday [I hope this is a one-time thing], being able to enjoy a few glasses of wine [no problem, the wife and I split a bottle a couple of times a week], and just generally be more of his old self than me [dude, it happens--you created all but like one cell of a new person and are feeding it out of your body], I feel jealous and lonely [normal, but it won't be as bad when your kid's older], as well as disappointed that we seem to be drifting towards traditional [just because it's not your thing doesn't make that a bad thing--it worked for centuries prior to the Pill where all women in your age group were doing exactly what you are now doing, so you could go next door to Sally or across the street to Barb and vent and share the load with other strong women] gender roles.
Tips for Dad:
As a father, the me-only time is so minimal. The gym has to go; take that money, get one of these and get "exercise" by taking your baby for a long walk/jog in the stroller so mom can relax or come with you if she wants. If the playing all day thing is a regular occurrence, that's just crazy that he does that, and mom should bring it up; if it's a one-off thing, not terrible, but ... I wouldn't. I'm 30, and sure there are things I'd rather be doing than helping in the mornings, and rushing home from work to help until we go to bed, and then staying home or doing only things with my family all weekend. I probably change every diaper when I'm home, and keep the toddler busy so she can focus on baby. Always try to boost mom's confidence at every opportunity.

Tips for Mom:
Drink more wine! Don't let the crazies tell you it's bad--those warnings on everything are for the teenage moms-to-be who go 2 da club w babby lol n drink all nite.

Take a NAP every day, preferably with you baby.
posted by resurrexit at 9:11 AM on July 29, 2012 [19 favorites]


Chairs = chores
posted by k8t at 9:11 AM on July 29, 2012


And with regard to a second child, everyone I know says that everyone has to be more involved with a 2nd. So while you'd be doing the same thing, he'd be caring for Toddler Anon.
posted by k8t at 9:13 AM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Which is why it's good to fix this stuff now.
posted by resurrexit at 9:14 AM on July 29, 2012


I will suggest you consider trying to up your nutrition. With raising special needs kids, I found that the difference between "I can't take this anymore!!" and wandering around singing like Mary Poppins was often a tall glass of water, a bite to eat, and/or a fifteen minute nap.

When my oldest was a breastfed baby, I used to make cream of wheat with wheat germ, whole milk, tofu and frozen fruit. At the time, I thought it was the most delicious food ever. When I had a second baby and made this again I could not choke it down. I am thinking you may not be getting enough nutrition to really meet your needs and the baby's needs and if you up your intake of calcium, the right fats and protiens and vitamins, you might feel a bit less burdened and the baby might also be a bit less of a pain.

Not that this alone would solve everything but you are getting plenty of other suggestions to address other pieces of this problem.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 9:19 AM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a dad who is the primary care-giver of two small children, it sounds to me like your husband should be doing more.

But, statements that he should be sleeping with you to share in the burden of waking up sound, to be honest, a little petty and childish. The pure biological fact is that babies need their mommies more than their daddies. Punishing daddies for this is hardly constructive.

A better option, IMHO, who would be to let him get a good night's sleep in order to have more energy to support you during the day. More laundry, more cooking, more chores.
posted by zachawry at 9:21 AM on July 29, 2012 [12 favorites]


Can one of you take 30 minutes and make a spreadsheet listing the amount of time you spend on each thing you do every day? Maybe Dad could do this. Seriously, look at the time put in for each thing, down to 5 minutes changing a diaper X times per day ... then maybe he will understand in a very clear way why he should be cleaning instead of going to bed, or cooking instead of driving to and from the gym.
posted by amtho at 9:30 AM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here's a bit about baby sleep habits and potential, from the Google books preview of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep.

The book is based on a number of studies on the sleep habits and patterns of babies, and the book says by 6 months, babies can sleep through the night, and go back to sleep on their own, but the problem comes from sleep associations. If your little one is used to being fed or rocked back to sleep, he can't do that for himself, so he'll make noises until you sooth him with milk or rocking, even though he can get enough food in the day to sleep through the night. You can talk to your pediatrician about this, find a La Leche League or breastfeeding consultant to help with this, or read up and try things out yourself.

My wife and I have an 11 month old guy, and I've been involved with night feedings from the beginning. We only co-slept when he wouldn't go back to sleep alone and we were too tired to rock him any more, so that's a bit different, but then again, every baby is different. I was (and still am) the one who gets our son to sleep, both at night and during the day. This is no good, as this is a negative sleep attachment, but I kind of love it now, especially that he only gets up once per night, if at all.

Sure, it sucked that we were both tired, but neither of us were as tired if we tried it alone. My wife could only take 6 weeks off, so we both had some very tired months. I drank coffee and "energy shot" drinks (buy them in bulk and they aren't that expensive). And now my son enjoys spending time with both mom and dad, and doesn't seem to prefer mom for comforting.

Because your husband can't nurse and you aren't using formula (yet), there won't be a clean 50/50 split in your household. Plus, you are a stay-at-home mom for now, so that is another factor that can't be shared. But if/when you do start using formula, he can help out with the first factor, and he can take over on the weekends, or even see about taking some paternity leave, if his job offers that. I did, when our son was first born, but we've been lucky enough to have family around to help out with baby care, cooking and cleaning. When we didn't, I did as much around the house as I could, and we let the house cleaning become less important, for the good of both of us.

But because you'll still be the stay-at-home mom, it's not unreasonable for your husband to reduce or completely drop his fun activities and give you more breaks. Spending a whole day playing cricket sounds selfish to me, a father who went through the same thing. I felt bad for taking "me days" on the weekends, because then mom doesn't get a break. But when I did, I'd give mom the next day off.

If you're ever stressed out and want a break and your husband is/can be around and available, it's not unreasonable for him to take over baby duty and let you rest. And you can have dad start trying to take over a few of the night-time calm-me-downs, starting with soothing and then giving the little guy a bottle if quiet music, shushing, and/or rocking isn't enough. Maybe dad is on weekend duty for the nights, so you can at least get a few nights of uninterrupted sleep. During the week, you could split night-time duties. Neither of you will get a full night of sleep, but neither of you will be dead-tired the next day. Taking care of the baby alone is not a restful day, even if you do nap when he does.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:32 AM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Stop cosleeping. Pump and have your husband do all the nighttime feedings. The baby will sleep better and so will you. Your husband will gain valuable bonding time and share the parenting experience with you more closely.

I'd also suggest that your husband cut out the excessive socializing. Eight hours of cricket? Really? No, I think not. He should be helping out at home, and hanging out with baby. Even if he can't nurse the kid, there's lots he can do.

But start by ditching the cosleeping. Your child is old enough to transition to their own bed. I say this as a father who put many years into cosleeping with his kids. After the first four months it was a negative, both for the kids and for us. None of us slept as well as we should have, and sleep deprivation is the root of many evils.
posted by alms at 9:32 AM on July 29, 2012


There was a NY Times Magazine story a few years ago about "equally shared parenting" and moving away from the idea that the mom is "in charge" of parenting decisions and behaviors and the dad just takes direction and fills in where he can. I found it very interesting, and the subjects of that story maintain a site here. Best of luck working through this - it is a challenge many people face that requires a lot of hard work and commitment on both sides to solve.
posted by judith at 9:33 AM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I should also mention that if you're feeling depressed or not yourself, get help and seriously consider medication, weaning, or whatever you need to do. Our culture plays up the benefits of breastfeeding and downplays the benefits of a happy, well-adjusted mother (which are also based in a lot of research). There is no need for a healthy baby to be with mom more than dad. We are beyond that particular bit of biology.

Right now at 10 months my baby is with my (male) partner more than me, because I was going batshit insane and he is better at waking up and dealing with the sleep deprivation. He is a fine, happy, well-adjusted baby and I actually enjoy being a parent instead of seeing it as a never-ending burden placed solely on me.

Cosleeping isn't necessarily an easy and obvious solution. Cosleeping was rough on our marital intimacy (just in terms of being friends and spending time together, not even talking about sex). It made it difficult for me to do things alone because I went to bed when the baby did. Having him in bed with me encouraged him to wake in the night to feed, as he could smell/see/feel me. It made it harder for him to self-settle because he was getting used to the breast as his method of sleeping.

If anything, for maternal sanity and lowered resentment I would decrease the amount of time spent with the baby attached to you, not increase it!
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:36 AM on July 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


I haven't read through all the answers and perhaps this has been covered already but here are my two cents, FWIW. Split the night up into shifts. You get the first four hours and he gets the second. If baby wakes during your husband's shift baby gets a bottle (breast milk or formula).

I thought for a long time that if my daughter got a bottle of formula that I was failing her. I know better now. When I was trying to do everything during the night I was really failing her, myself and my marriage because I was miserable all the time; exhausted, grumpy, resentful.

If baby cannot take a bottle then it is time to teach baby to do so. Baby will eventually start sleeping better, I promise, but for now you need to formulate a plan with your partner for night time duties. You describe your partner as a very hands on parent and supportive spouse. That's great because you guys can probably figure out a plan to save your sanity.

Good luck and I hang in there. It gets easier!
posted by teamnap at 9:47 AM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


My best friend, who's on her third newborn now (April 25th dob) had this problem with her second son who just needed that much more holding and feeding. What they do now, is that she's downstairs on the sofa, watching telly with her husband and baby sleeps in a swing cot type of thing just near their feet, until they're ready to go upstairs. She's talked this through with me, about how baby2 just wasn't going to be as easy as baby1 had been and even now will occasionally want the feed even though baby3 has come along. Maybe keeping baby near you in the evenings (and saying to the H..l with what the books and mums say about putting him down upstairs for the night) will help you find some evening time with your husband as well?
posted by infini at 10:08 AM on July 29, 2012


Like many women, I've been there. I remember feeling so very lonely and so very very tired, and like it was going to be that way forever. Your feelings are normal. It gets a lot easier. I breastfeed exclusively and co-slept (but I agree with others, is there a reason your husband doesn't sleep with you?). I hated pumping and did not want to give my daughter formula. And it was hard sometimes, but I'm glad we did it that way. When my daughter was about six months old, I had a big meltdown because I was so tired and feeling crazy. My husband took over more of the household. For a while, all I did was laundry, vacuuming and feeding myself while he was at work and he did all the other household stuff. It wasn't forever, less than a year. The baby started sleeping better, eating more food, being more comforted by her dad, he was able to easily do more for our daughter, I picked up more housework, everything evened out again. People were forever telling us to give her a bottle and put her in a crib in another room, but we didn't want to, and we didn't, and we had some times that were rough, and we're all fine now. It really will get easier.
posted by upatree at 10:16 AM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to say that the "pump and let dad do the night feedings" advice isn't always useful --- some women (like me!) don't get enough milk for a feeding, and bottlefeeding can affect supply negatively.

We don't know the OP's goals for breastfeeding as she never stated them, but it just isn't necessarily easy for some women to get a ton of milk from the pump. And some babies (like mine!) won't take a bottle when they know mom is or should be available.

I wanted to come in and reiterate that it won't be this way forever. My youngest is now 10 months old, eats a ton of solid foods, and beginning to learn how to drink from a straw cup. My husband can now take her out for a couple hours at a time.

Just remember, this too shall pass. It really will. You'll reach a place where this is a distant memory, and you'll be thankful and wistful about the entire experience at the same time.

The only other helpful advice I can offer is try to shift some of your socialization to earlier in the day/evening --- not always possible. But if you could have cocktail hour/dinner thing rather than a dinner/late night drinks thing when having friends over, you'll have more time to socialize. Also, when babies stop to drop naps, they start to go to bed even earlier. And that's awesome.

In the meantime, drink a glass of wine, find a movie you want to watch on netflix, and enjoy.
posted by zizzle at 10:38 AM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


*start to drop naps
posted by zizzle at 10:39 AM on July 29, 2012


My advice? Don't take anyone's advice, including those who write books. Talk to your husband about his needs and communicate your needs. Be respectful of your child's needs and your husband's, but don't go crazy by abdicating your own.

A lot of people have very specific advice in here that worked for their family. The thing is, kids are unique. For example, cosleeping has always been impossible for our daughter, as she needs her own space, and always has. Other babies are different.

The most important thing is to identify your needs respectfully to your husband; discuss his and your child's needs the same way, and figure it out as a team.
posted by miss tea at 10:53 AM on July 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wouldn't discount formula. I know the pressure to breastfeed is great, but there isn't a TON of evidence that you need to.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:53 AM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the best advice here is from Countess Elena. Feel your feelings. Instead of stuffing those feelings of resentment away, try saying them out loud. "I feel angry that I am awake at 4:17 AM to nurse this baby, and my spouse is snoozing happily in the other room." Because, you know... that DOES suck. It just does. In my experience, letting myself sit with that unpleasant feeling for a moment really lightens things up for me (as opposed to when I try to shove them away or talk myself out of them, which I think makes you crazy over time.)

I also think that your best action-step bet is to talk this over with your husband. "Hey! I am feeling some strong resentment over how much harder this is for me than it is for you. I resent that you get enough sleep and that my life has fallen off a cliff and you still get to hang out with friends. I do not want to be a crazy bitter woman who is angry at her husband, so I need us to work through this together."

Anyway. This period of mothering is just very difficult for most people. You are not alone. It's just so hard in so many ways you aren't prepared for, especially if you have a baby who needs a lot of holding and nursing. For my money, I think you are doing the right thing over the long haul by meeting those needs instead of fighting them. But it's hard.

(My partnership did even out over time, FWIW. But I think you have to check in about it or things start to drift into eerie 1950s assumptions, without anyone really noticing.)
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:23 AM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, when my little one was still breastfeeding full time, my husband slept in the bed with me. Every time the baby woke to feed, he would get up and check the diaper and bring her to me so that I didn't have to get out of bed. It's a small thing, but it made me feel like we were all in it together.

I also echo the others who have suggested the occasional bottle of formula. We had other issues - my baby started to prefer the bottle at about 3 months, and I just couldn't keep up enough pumping to provide her with enough breast milk bottles - but we ended up doing a combination of breast milk and formula from 3 months to 6 months, when we switched full time to formula. Even just one bottle of formula a day can help take the pressure off of you.
posted by barnoley at 11:24 AM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The major feminist critique of attachment parenting is that it forces a hugely disproportionate share of exhausting infant care work on to the mother, and stringently reinforces very traditional gender roles in the process. (Not for every family, but for most.) If an egalitarian marriage is your most important value, you may have to reconsider breastfeeding and co-sleeping. Otherwise, you are going to have to find a balance between the two values of egalitarian marriage/parenting and attachment parenting, because it is almost impossible to fully realize both values at the same time. Which is to say, you're not doing it wrong! The world is unfair and I resent it too.

People have suggested a lot of different ways to find a balance here, and I don't think any one of them is wrong. I will tell you I think the most important thing for you, and for the resentment and exhaustion and loneliness and frustration, all of which I totally recognize, is to get SEVERAL CONSECUTIVE HOURS of sleep. Sleep training, pumping, formula -- those are all totally reasonable answers. (Our solution: we had the baby in a sidecar, so in with us but not in the bed; with both kids, I would go to bed early, right after breastfeeding, and my husband would stay up and give the next feeding (formula, in our case), and then bring the baby to bed. That way I got four or five hours in a row, and then breastfeed and then got another couple hours. I was anxious about introducing a formula "rescue bottle" with the first one, but I was exhausted and falling apart, and for us it went really well, and when both babies began sleeping longer periods we just dropped the rescue bottle and went entirely breastfed.)

Please talk with your husband about how you do feel resentful about the imbalance. Many men give up forbidden pregnancy foods along with their wives. Many men get up in the night with the baby every time. Decide what's important to you and talk with your partner about it. I had a terrible time with food when I was pregnant (I had miserable pregnancies), and my husband was really sensitive about avoiding things I couldn't have so that I didn't feel deprived or jealous. On the other hand, I'm a light sleeper and wake up a lot in the night anyway, whereas my husband is a mess without 9 hours of sleep, so I didn't mind getting up a million times a night and tried to make it so he could sleep soundly. But one of my friends, her husband got up with her for EVERY night time feeding and sat up with her and watched cheezy late-night TV or read a book or chatted with her, because she hated getting up in the night and even though he wasn't DOING anything, he was showing her solidarity, you know? (And she said, "I would have been SO ANGRY if he didn't get up with me," and I just thought that was crazy train and super-impractical, but it made the two of them happy and made them feel like a team, so that's excellent for them.)

Especially talk with him about the socializing -- being alone with a baby is super-isolating, and if he is getting to socialize with adults by going to work, I do think fairness demands a premium placed on your socializing in the evenings or on weekends. It's hard to change your mindset that work is a BREAK from being at home all the time, rather than home being a refuge from work, but the reality is that with very small children at home, work IS a break, and home is hard as hell. And your husband needs to realize that and help you get a break more often.

It does get better, though. Eventually the baby won't need quite so much constant care, and you will have more time for yourselves and your sanity (whether your roles are egalitarian or traditional).

Also, even though my second was more demanding than my first, it was less-difficult, I guess because the 24/7 someone is touching me was less of a shock and adjustment. I mean, two is an overwhelming number of children, it's true, but the adjustment to the new baby was a lot easier the second time and I didn't feel quite as aggravated/trapped/stressed by having the baby attached to me all the darn time. Exhausted, yes. Cranky, yes. Overwhelmed, yes. But not like OMG I WILL NEVER GET TO BE BY MYSELF AGAIN.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:26 AM on July 29, 2012 [17 favorites]


So let me get this straight:

During the weekday, he works outside the home (I am assuming?) and you have the baby.

All the rest of the time, he does half the chores, some baby stuff and spends the rest of his time socializing or doing things on his own.

All the rest of the time, you do half the chores, and all the baby stuff that needs to be done while he's out socializing or doing things on his own ... ?

That's not equal. The spiltting-up-the-housekeeping thing is a red herring, because that is no longer the sum total of the work that needs to be done in your household.

Let's do some math here. Let's say housekeeping takes 10 hours per week. Work outside the home, let's say 50 hours per week. Baby time takes 168 hours per week: someone needs to be there with the little guy 24/7. So between you two, you have 228 hours to cover. What is he putting in? Well, let's put it this way: if you assume 8 hours of sleep per night (I know, ha ha) you have 224 waking hours per week between the both of you. Obviously there can be some multitasking, but it seems pretty clear that if he has 8 spare hours on a Saturday and you don't, then he can't be doing his part.

Okay, so to answer your question about what to do about your resentment: well, since we've identified that it likely stems from an objective, identifiable and rectifiable labor imbalance, the next step is to talk to your husband and work together to find a solution that is fair to both of you. It will probably involve a paradigm shift on his part, less away from "helping" with the baby and the housework, to where you both take ownership of the child care and housework as much as possible.
posted by AV at 11:29 AM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would strongly recommend booking a hotel room for the night and leaving the baby with your hubby so you can finally have a good night's sleep before you have what I am sure will be an emotional conversation.
posted by saucysault at 11:30 AM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Look, it's a tiring time. Since I am assuming breastfeeding is well established now I know that one bottle of formula a day won't hurt and will give you a little freedom. (I nursed my children and that was a lifesaver!)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:44 AM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dude I'd be resentful as fuck. You are home with an infant all day every day and on the weekends, your husband is playing cricket?

No. On Friday and Saturday nights, your husband is co-sleeping with your baby and either formula or pump feeding while you get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If he's too exhausted to play cricket, well, welcome to infancy.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:45 AM on July 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also, note how in the moms' comments (and I can vouch for my lady) that a certain period of OH CRYING BABY I AM CRAZY OF MUST MILK THE SLEEP ALL OF WHERE IS HUSBAND THIS is well attested to. FWIW. You might be lonely, but you're not alone. :)
posted by resurrexit at 11:55 AM on July 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not seeing where you told us what he said when you brought this up to him as soon as you started feeling this way.
posted by cmoj at 12:09 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I came here to say what DarlingBri & Saucysault have said. First priority, this week, tonight (hubs will have a shitty Monday - that's okay), is full uninterrupted sleep. First, you need 8-10 hours. Take a pump with you, even a simple hand pump if you haven't splashed out for a big beast.

If your hubs works a regular five days per week then Friday & Saturday nights are his nights. Get this pattern established right now so that you can put your eyes on straight and start to work on a new system.

Also, this is the perfect time to start working on longer stretches of sleeping for the baby. And with starting solids, this often helps.

Remember, this is temporary. Baby will not be like this forever. So, you both have to knuckle down and support each other. You just need more support right now in the relationship.
posted by amanda at 12:12 PM on July 29, 2012


I think some of the resentment might get less if your loneliness gets less.
For me, the saving thing was joining a mom group once a week and making sure I met some other adult at least once a day. It took a lot of the pressure of interacting one on one with the baby off.
On the days where we were alone all day we'd be driving each other up the wall and my expectations of my husband when he finally came home were so high he'd be hard pressed not to disappoint me.

(Sometimes I went grocery shopping three times a day just to get some adult interaction.)

That said, I think you need to give yourself permission to demand more of your husband than he is giving you.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:15 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, I am so there with you. I think what helped with my husband and I was realizing that equal roles does not mean equal work. It was impossible for my husband to spend all day solo with our baby while I was breastfeeding, so he picked up the slack in other ways.

First, he got up with the baby. When she woke up (at 5am!), I would feed her, and then he would take her until it was time for him to go to work. That meant I generally slept until 8 or so. Then, when he got home from work, he would feed her dinner or play with her, bathe her, and then I would nurse her and then he'd do bedtime. After that, we would eat dinner together, go to the gym, etc. He generally went to sleep early so he could get up early with her, and then would sleep through the night feedings.

In the early days, he did almost all the dishes, chores, and cooking. When she needed feeding at night, he would take care of the diaper changes so I could go back to sleep. Once her sleeping schedule got more established and I was able to sleep more than 5 hours at a time, I would nap during her first nap and do chores during her second.

I will also say that things got tremendously easier when we sleep trained her around 7 months, and that I would not have been able to nurse until 16 months if he hadn't been so supportive. In retrospect, I do wish I'd been more flexible with formula; by the time I was willing to try it at 4 months or so she absolutely refused it. But until she reduced her eating times to every 4-5 hours, anything non-nursing related was done by my husband when he was around, and trips for him were scheduled around when we could get help from relatives.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:43 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


You could check out this site. They also wrote a book about how to have an egalitarian marriage with kids that includes some suggestions about how to deal with this challenging early period.
posted by Cygnet at 1:05 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm the father of an 8 month old who just had her first night without any night feedings (my wife already misses waking to nurse her). Just know that things will get better soon. The baby also becomes a lot more fun right around 6 months, so exciting times are around the corner.

We never used formula or got much out of pumping so my wife was, and still is, in a very similar situation. These can provide some relief, but there is no way around the fact that you are very much anchored to the baby in a way that your husband isn't. It's normal to resent that some and be jealous of your husband's relative freedom.

All that said, a lot about your situation doesn't sound remotely egalitarian. From 9-5, or whatever his hours, he has his job and your job is to survive the day and keep your baby happy and fed. All other times, you are partners in taking care of the baby, the house and each other. You have to work out what feels fair, but from the outside, it seems like he should be taking a lot more on and helping you enjoy some time out. Escaping for eight hours on the weekend should just not be possible for him right now.
posted by gimletbiggles at 1:11 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I empathize with your plight. Because my husband wakes easily and I didn't see a need for both of us to be completely sleep deprived, I slept in the same room as my daughter and did all the night waking with her until she was eleven months old and we did sleep training. Although I offered this solution, after weeks and then months of no more than a few consecutive hours of sleep it took its toll. I also ultimately quit my job and became the stay at home parent when she was eight months old, so the general imbalance with childcare responsibilities in some way became codified, even though we had lots of talks about the issue.

The end result for us is a three and a half year old toddler that loves her daddy but prefers my attention and in some ways perpetuates the cycle of getting mom care over dad care when both of us are present. There is a bright side, as others have said, in that I get to have all of this bonding and all of these loving experiences with my daughter that my husband misses out on because he is at work earning money. And, if I were him, I would probably on some level be jealous of that bonding and those opportunities.

I guess I'm not really providing advice, only saying that while some folks here advise it gets better and resolves itself, other times it creates a pattern that is perpetuated. And others are right above that swallowing your resentment doesn't cure it, it only allows things to build up. A talk seems in order, just remember that you are a team and try to lovingly cajole him into having your back like you try to have his. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 1:13 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love the math idea up above, so I did a bit different calculation:

50 hrs/week out-of-house work (your husband works full time?)
15 hrs/ week housework and cooking
126 hrs/ week of active child-watching (I based this off estimating your baby plus you get 6 hours of "good" sleep a day, so 18 hours a day that someone needs to be awake and watching him)

So that adds up to 191 hours a week... so equally, each of you should be putting in about 95 hours a week. If your husband is indeed out of the house working 50 hours a week, is he putting in 45 hours of Baby or housework so you can get a break?

Of course it may not be feasible for the hours to break down exactly... but I think it's an easy trap to think that if he's working full time, you "should" be doing everything else since you're "not working". But if he's gone all day, then you are also doing a full time Baby job. Your job right now is just as important as his, and he sounds a bit clueless if he's "dropping by" the gym after work when you've been home all day without a break.
posted by nakedmolerats at 1:17 PM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh hon, I know. My baby is 15 months old, and you know what? She sleeps through the night, and even though I'm tired a lot, life is SO much easier. My relationship with my husband is better. We go on date nights. It's good. What you're dealing with seems like it's your new fate-- the exhausting, eternal new State of Things, but it's not, I promise.

What sort of helped for me:
- pumping. I found it stressful half the time (i didn't always get enough), but it occasionally allowed me to skip a feeding at night or run out and get a pedicure or something.

What really helped:
- being very direct with my husband about what I needed him to be doing. Gently remind him that you're nourishing your infant with milk from your body, and he should be okay with shopping, cooking, etc. One of my requests was that my husband get up with the baby in the morning a few days a week so I could sleep in a little.
- weaning. I didn't want to wean at 7 months (I had in mind one year as the magic number), but for a bunch of reasons it just happened. We started in with an organic formula, and right away, life got easier. Yeah, it's an added expense, I felt a little guilty, and I missed the physical contact, but she did just fine with the formula, and before long, she was a year old and drinking cow's milk and eating solids. She's sturdy and awesome. (But please don't feel pressured to wean earlier than you planned. That helped us, but there are certainly other ways to mitigate what you're feeling using pumping, a better division of labor, plain old patience, and the like.)

What might also help:
- Recalling evolutionary biology. You're doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing. Nature, in all her sexism, doesn't seem to want things to be equitable. But even more than that, you're forming a genuine bond with your baby. I miss breastfeeding! I really, really do. It was something awesome I could give my daughter. But I'm also so, so relieved to be done with it.
posted by cymru_j at 1:26 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


8 hours of cricket while you both have a 5 month old? Hell no!

I think reminding him that you both have a child together is a good idea - he needs to be doing almost all of the housework, shopping, cooking, and cleaning. This period will not last forever and he has to compromise now as much as you do. You need more opportunities away from home and baby and husband because you have a human being who is physically dependent in you - that's exhausting.

But get this crap sorted before you have another one.
posted by heyjude at 1:43 PM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


TALK to him! Don't pose the issues as being unfair to you, but let him know that you're struggling.

And find a way to take a nap each day. Twenty to thirty minutes, minimum. You also need to discuss postpartum depression with your doc--anger is often the result of depression as well as lack of sleep.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:32 PM on July 29, 2012


Beyond the issues with your husband, please try to nap when the baby naps. The house can get cleaned, laundry can be done, food can be cooked LATER. By your husband.
posted by k8t at 2:47 PM on July 29, 2012


Trying to find time to pump between feedings is awful. I exclusively pumped for two weeks while we figured out the latch, and it was a nightmare. I was ALWAYS feeding or pumping... except when my husband was home.

Out of that terrible time came a habit we stuck to until our some slept through the night. For the nighttime feeding, we'd both get up. I'd pump while he fed the baby a bottle of previously pumped milk. Any extra I got was frozen, but most just made it's way into the next night's bottle. Was it an efficient use of our collective store of energy? No. Was I alone and resentful in the wee hours? No.

Also, do not be afraid of formula. Also also: stop cooking, jeez. He can do that at the very least.
posted by that's how you get ants at 5:54 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have friends with 1 year old children, or thereabouts, and even then neither parent gets 8 hours off in a weekend. What's happening is not typical in an egalitarian household.

What you have here is a communication challenge. You have to find a productive way to communicate your feelings to your husband, that leads to the situation being pragmatically changed for the better, and also doesn't damage (and maybe even improves) your relationship.

That's a challenge, but one you should take on. Find a productive way to talk to him. Key words: productive. Constructive. That improves your relationship. It really is possible. It's a communication challenge here.
posted by kellybird at 6:16 PM on July 29, 2012


Sleep.

Earplugs are a great tool. Get some. Wear them to bed one night (a week, a month, whatever works for you) and let him get up with the kid during the night. He can give a bottle, etc. while you snooze uninterrupted. And you will be amazed how much better you feel after just one night of sleep (at least, that's how it worked for me, and I was nursing too).

As for 2nd baby - don't look too far down that road. We decided to have our kids about 3 years apart, so we'd kind of forgotten about the sleep-deprivation by the time #2 came along. And kid #2 seemed so much easier! It was like kid #1 required training wheels, and with kid #2 we could take off the training wheels and just cruise down the street. Still work, but not the same level of learning/brain power required, if that makes sense.
posted by hms71 at 7:50 PM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have a 17 month old and a fairly egalitarian marriage. My husband took over most of the household management while my daughter was still nursing. He did almost all the cooking, all of the yard work (minus my veggie garden), all of the pet care, and more than his share of cleaning. If he was at home he did almost every baby chore that did not involve breastfeeding. He did all the fingernail clipping, baths, cord care and bedtime book reading. He changed any diaper he encountered. To give me extra time alone her took her for regular walks and always took her along on the weekly grocery shopping trip.

And despite all that I still had my days of feeling put upon and overtaxed. Breastfeeding takes up so much time and energy that it is nearly impossible to overcome the imbalance. This is compounded by the fact that my daughter found my husband a poor Mommy-substitute and would scream his ear off if she could hear or see me while he held her and she was the least bit hungry (which was most of the time).

The worst was when she was three months old and I finally got to take a 30 minute food shopping trip by myself. I was called back at the 20 minute mark because she had screamed herself blue and spotted in the brief time I was gone. When he handed her to me as I walked in the door she was immediately silent and happy. I was her prisoner.

She slowly came to appreciate Not-Mommy when we started to feed her solid foods and now they are inseparable.

A few things really helped me stay sane during the months of nursing:

1. Go to bed when the baby goes to bed. I never followed the "nap when the baby naps" rule, but it helped immensely to go to bed really, really early, and get a few hours in before that "top up" feeding at around 11pm. I would still wake up for feedings every few hours, but I'd end up with one extra 3 hours sleep session and that made all the difference for my sanity. I missed out on many hours of TV and adult time, but I was a happier, more resilient person for it.

Also, keep the bed to yourself if you like it and you sleep better. Sleep quality matters.

2. We started solid foods a little earlier than the recommended six months. We'd intended to give here one trial spoonful of mashed sweet potatoes but she ate the entire bowl and then cried for more. In retrospect, she'd been ready for solid food for weeks and was nursing constantly because she had outpaced what I could give her.

If your kid is big for his age and a constant eater it might be worth seeing if he is interested. The 6 month until solids rule doesn't work for every child; he'll let you know if he's ready, and if not you can continue what you're doing. However, if you're successful this would buy you non-pumped feedings.

3. It is a good feeling to know there are baby chores that are not your job. It is heavenly to hand off a baby for a good scrubbing and know for once that they are not your problem for a few minutes. You should delegate any baby duty that you can.
posted by Alison at 8:30 PM on July 29, 2012


I enthusiastically recommend this organic formula.

That is all.
posted by jbenben at 8:54 PM on July 29, 2012


All children are different, but I think it's pretty typical that babies sleep through the night by three months old or so. Mine did, and I would have gone insane if they hadn't. I suggest picking up a copy of Weissbluth's "Healthy Sleep, Happy Child" and focusing on getting your baby to sleep through the night. You will be AMAZED at how much better you feel and how much clearer you can think once you are getting a solid 7-8 hours in every night.

(And after that, for the love of God address the cricket / going to the gym / etc stuff, because that is BS. He needs to get home and take that baby off your hands. Wouldn't YOU like to go to the gym?)
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:33 PM on July 29, 2012


No way. It is POSSIBLE that babies sleep through the night at three months. It is by no means typical. Maybe you will get lucky, and find that your baby will easily adapt to sleeping through the night, but you have not "broken the baby" because he's not sleeping through.
posted by instamatic at 12:19 AM on July 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, every baby is different. Mine is 19 months and I would say that every third night she wakes up and needs some tending. So, two nights through, 1 night where we freak out that she has suddenly stopped sleeping through the night and WTF will we do?!?! And then two good nights....

But! Sleep training and spacing out feedings a bit so that baby will take more when it's feeding time and give you more time not breastfeeding is a very good idea at this age and books can help you come up with a system to try.
posted by amanda at 8:01 AM on July 30, 2012


The two things that helped me: 1) realizing that it was post postpartum depression talking also, it's hard to see sometimes, because you are totally JUSTIFIED in your feelings of resentment, so you think "this couldn't be helped by meds" but oh they did help take the hard edge off the resentment. So it doesn't have to be only depression OR unbalanced workload, it can be both. 2) getting my husband to give me one night off a week, no questions asked. even if I didn't feel like it or have any plans, just walking out of the house, by myself for an hour or two helped a lot! even at 5 months, you could get 30 or 40 minutes to sit in a coffee shop alone can be really restorative. what you need is a chance to get away from and actually miss your baby :)
posted by dipolemoment at 9:55 AM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's wrong with using formula? It sounds like more of the work could be shared if you switched to formula. I know you enjoy breastfeeding, but you are making that choice and having to deal with all grueling aspects of breastfeeding over formula.
posted by parakeetdog at 10:37 AM on July 30, 2012


Parakeetdog, the problem is not the breastfeeding. Exclusively breastfeeding an infant can be totally manageable, if your partner picks up the slack. Weaning either now or later will replace feedings with either preparing/giving/washing up bottles or with preparing/serving/washing up meals. It's a whole new set of tasks that, yes, can be shared more equally but I'm not sure that they would be in this case.

Basically, with an infant, your chores are feed baby + care for baby + keep house. It's possible to split all of that equally no matter how you choose to feed baby.
posted by that's how you get ants at 11:54 AM on July 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


instamatic, her baby is 5 months old, if that makes any difference in your response.

I am not sure how to deal with that resentment, to be super honest, because I know I felt it too. However, it does get better, over time, especially if you can get your husband to wake up and see that things aren't as equal as he maybe thought they were. Lots of great suggestions to make sure your husband knows how you are feeling.

Is there any way to record your tv shows and watch them together (perhaps while you nurse your baby)?

With a 5 month old and having to wake up that frequently, you could consider checking with your son's pediatrician about supplementing with a little rice cereal (mixed with pumped breastmilk, or formula, whatever works well for you and where you want to be with breastfeeding) or similar right before bedtime, to maybe stretch out your sleep time a little longer.

You might also ask your doctor (not the pediatrician, YOUR doctor) if he/she has any advice about what might be best for you and meeting your needs as well as your son's.
posted by freezer cake at 3:02 PM on July 30, 2012


Sorry for the confusion, freezer cake-- I was responding to the idea that it was "typical" for a baby to sleep through the night at three months that fingers and toes had posted just above my post. Certainly some 3 month old babies must sleep through the night, but not most of them. There is a whole self help industry around getting babies to sleep that wouldn't exist if the typical three month old slept through the night. My youngest did, my oldest did not. (My youngest *stopped* sleeping through the night at some point, of course, and *still* frequently wakes up. At four years old. Yawn.)
posted by instamatic at 3:41 PM on July 30, 2012


I also recommend the Weissbluth book, as it can help set your expectations about sleeping. FWIW, it clearly says that at 5-8 months, 1-2 nighttime feedings is the norm, typically every 4-6 hours. If you can get your husband to handle one of those feedings, you should in theory be able to get a solid stretch of sleep in.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:37 PM on July 31, 2012


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