Disagreeing about babies’ bedtime creates tension between parents

Published: August 12, 2017
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PHOTO: FILE

PHOTO: FILE

Disagreeing about babies’ bedtimes creates tension between parents, which could lead to separation, new research suggests. Mothers with strong opinions on how to tend to infants crying in the night can cause couples to question their parenting, a study found, reported Daily Mail.

This may then lead to drifts in the relationship if they feel unsupported in their decision, the research adds. Mothers generally have stronger beliefs about how to respond to nighttime crying than fathers, but both opinions lessen as the child ages.

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Study author Jonathan Reader from Pennsylvania State University, said, “Because the mothers were the more active ones during the night, if they’re not feeling supported in their decisions, then it creates more of a drift in the co-parenting relationship.”

The researchers asked 167 mothers and 155 fathers how they felt about attending to their baby in the middle of the night when the infant was one, three, six, nine and 12 months old. For example, they were asked to what extent they agree with statements like, ‘My child will feel abandoned if I don’t respond immediately to his/her cries at night.’ They were also asked to respond to statements relating to co-parenting, such as ‘My partner and I have the same goals for our child.’

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Results reveal mothers who have strong opinions on how to tend to babies crying in the night can cause couples to question their parenting, which may create drifts in the relationship. Mothers generally have stronger beliefs about how to respond to nighttime crying than fathers, but both opinions lessen as the child ages. “During the study, we saw that in general mothers were much more active at night with the baby than the fathers were. So perhaps because the mothers were the more active ones during the night, if they’re not feeling supported in their decisions, then it creates more of a drift in the co-parenting relationship,” Reader added.

The researchers believe their findings highlight the importance of communication between parents. “It’s important to have these conversations early and upfront, so when it’s 3 am and the baby’s crying, both parents are on the same page about how they’re going to respond. Constant communication is really important,” Reader stated.

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Study author Professor Douglas Teti adds the health and wellbeing of parents is just as important as that of children. “What we seem to be finding is that it’s not so much whether the babies are sleeping through the night, or how the parents decide to do bedtime, but more about how the parents are reacting and if they’re stressed.  That seems to be much more important than whether you co-sleep or don’t co-sleep, or whatever you choose to do. Whatever you decide, just make sure you and your partner are on the same page,” said Teti.

“We want to learn more about how to put families in a position where they know that not every baby will be sleeping on their own by three months, and that’s okay.  Most kids learn how to go to sleep eventually. Parenting has a lot to do with it.” The findings were published in the Journal of Family Psychology. 

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