Looking for the best way to split the night for newborn feeding.
November 27, 2018 5:32 AM   Subscribe

We want to equitably split the night for newborn nighttime feedings, which currently take place at approximately 9:30pm, 11:30pm, 2:00am, and 5:00am. One of us has to get up at 7:30 to get up with toddler and get him off to school. We try go to bed at 8:30pm ā€” which is right after we put said toddler to sleep. We have two bedrooms to work with, and are very sleep-deprived so cannot figure this out. Help us, Mefi: What's the best way to split the night that ensures that two parents get maximum amount of sleep. (Assume overnight food supply is not a concern here, baby eats equally well from both parents, and both of us are off right now.)

We are currently doing every other feeding, and want to experiment with splitting the night at 2am ā€” but does this get us the maximum amount of sleep? Is there another way? Do you recommend one parent taking one night entirely, and then switching off? What has worked for you? In my sleep-deprived state, I cannot really think this through....
posted by melodykramer to Human Relations (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In this situation Iā€™d be tempted to do it like shift work: one parent goes to bed at 6 or 7 while the other handles toddler bedtime, and does the first two infant feedings. Then the other parent does the other two feedings and handles morning with the toddler.

We did something analogous when our kid had a couple months of sleep troubles around 3 years (though we only had one child to worry about).
posted by eirias at 5:41 AM on November 27, 2018 [11 favorites]

When we did something similar, we did shifts of ~ 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. and then 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. This way, you were guaranteed at least six hours of consecutive sleep. If you did something like that, then the person who goes to bed at 8 p.m. should get up at 7:30 with the toddler and then if needed, can go back to sleep when the other wakes up at 8 a.m.
posted by sutel at 5:45 AM on November 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

When we were in that place, we found that fewer continuous hours was better than more sleep but broken, so I'd say something like sutel's plan. That way you've got a chunk of uninterrupted sleep every night. We also found that consistency worked (and continues to work) better for us, so I'd try one parent being the bedtime parent and the other being the wakeup parent for 3-4 days, and then seeing if that is working or if it'd be better the other way around, instead of switching every night.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:50 AM on November 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

Definitely agree with the above - split it into two shifts where someone goes to bed early and the other person does evening feeds until ~midnight, then you switch over. Ideally one person is a night owl and the other is a morning person and the night owl is the one staying up late...
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:58 AM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

We did shifts with the switch at 2a. We changed places on the weekends to let the other person get a little chance to go to bed early / sleep in in the morning.
posted by sestaaak at 6:06 AM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

We did a 8:30p - 1:30a shift and a 1:30a - 6:30a shift, so ensure that everybody gets a solid chunk of sleep as well as a broken up chunk of sleep. Eventually, when we reached 1 wake up a night, we switched off every other night.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:10 AM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Here's one possibility:

One person goes to bed at 8:30 (or earlier) and gets up to do the 5:00 am feeding and take the toddler to school. The other person does the first 3 feedings, probably trying to get some sleep in between them, then stays in bed after the 2:00 feeding until they've had enough sleep, maybe until 10:00 am or so.
posted by Redstart at 6:15 AM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

The best advice I got from my midwife about post-partum stuff was that your sleep cycle is roughly 90 minutes, so if you can't sleep a lot, try to at least plan your sleep so you'll be sleeping in 90 minute chunks - waking up after 3 hours you'll feel less groggy than 3.5 or 4, because of where you're waking from light sleep instead of deep sleep. Or, 4.5 is a bit easier than 5.5 for the same reasons.

I concur with everyone above who says that you need to do shifts. One parent stays up and does the 930 and the 1130 then sleeps for at least 6 hours. For the other parent to do 2 am, they should plan to go to bed at either 8 pm (for 6 hours sleep) or (for 4.5 hours sleep - see above) and then get up for 2 am, then try to sleep another 90 minute chunk between the end of 2 am and the 5 am feeding. (then hopefully goes back to sleep for a bit more).

Also, since you're both home, please each try to sleep at least 3 hours (in shifts) while Toddler is at school.

Good luck to you.
posted by anastasiav at 6:39 AM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Shift work is the way to do it, but there are some considerations that are dependent on sleep habits of either parent. Is there a parent who falls asleep more easily? One who wakes up more easily?

I, for example, am shit at falling back asleep once awakened so if I were to take the second shift I'd be up all night anyway. I used to take the late evening feedings for that reason, because waking up at anytime after 3 am pretty much means being up for the day for me.
posted by lydhre at 6:58 AM on November 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Definitely do shifts. The local postpartum mental health center gives talks to pregnant women in my town, and the one take-away they say they want every couple to leave the talk with is that each parent needs to be getting two nights per week where they have at least a 4-hour chunk of uninterrupted sleep. That's the minimum, and going below that has been shown to significantly raise the likelihood of a postpartum mood disorder like depression or anxiety.

My husband and I were getting up for each feed initially (I'd feed, he'd re-diaper and put back down) and our lives improved SO MUCH when we switched to shifts that ended/started at 1am. We slept in separate rooms, with a safe sleep spot for baby in both rooms (I was in the master bed with a sidecar bassinet, he had a blow-up mattress in the baby's room with the full crib nearby) and we'd actually move the baby as we switched shifts, so the parent not on could sleep in a completely quiet room (with white noise machine to fully blot out baby noises).

If you can't get a sufficient quantity of sleep - which is impossible with a newborn - you need to make sure you're getting good quality sleep for the amounts you get. And uninterrupted is the single biggest determinant of sleep quality.
posted by iminurmefi at 9:04 AM on November 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Wait, why don't you just take turns every other night? The person who sleeps through the night gets to wake up at 7:30 to take the kid to school. We did this and then switched to 2 nights in a row each which was even better. 2 nights in a row of uninterrupted sleep felt like heaven. We were flexible though and sometimes offered to wake up one night if the other person had a rough day or had something important the next day they need to be well rested for.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 8:43 PM on November 27, 2018

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