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Georgie Bateman continues her look at sleep deprivation on the arrival of a new baby and how it affects dads too

In the last issue we looked at sleep deprivation suffered by mothers after the birth of their baby. A subject not so frequently addressed is how fathers struggle in the same way but research conducted by Night Nannies has uncovered some interesting facts.

Fathers felt that they suffered from sleep deprivation just as much as mothers but one response elicited the rueful comment: “although she doesn’t think so.” They found having a baby in the room with them was very disturbing, but when the baby was finally moved to its own room, the disruption caused by the mother getting up to do night feeds or settle the baby was actually worse.

Most fathers said they didn’t discuss the issue with anyone – they felt that friends wouldn’t want to hear about it; wives or partners tended to be doing the lion’s share of night care anyway so would not be terribly sympathetic; and work colleagues would be indifferent or see it as an excuse for poor performance. In addition, it was unanimously felt that if sleep deprivation impacted on the success of the team, their jobs would be in jeopardy. However, one comment which resonated among the respondants was: “It’s a shame, because having children actually makes you want to strive harder to provide for them.”

Most fathers said they didn’t discuss the issue with anyone

Like mothers, fathers in the survey said they would only discuss the problem with a professional if they felt there was a chance of resolving it; most felt that the professionals they spoke to weren’t very helpful in this regard. Many fathers admitted that they became short-tempered and, although a small part of their brain recognised that they were behaving like a brat throwing a temper tantrum, nevertheless they did not make the effort to control their tempers that they normally would.

“I took on extra chores, like buying and cooking dinner for us both, hanging out washing etc, so she didn’t feel she was doing everything”

A quote which seems to sum up the essential difference between a mother’s attitude to sleep deprivation compared to that of her other half came from a father who said: “The difference between my wife and I is that I would happily do away with sleep (if my body could cope) in order to do other rewarding escapist non-energetic activities (movies, TV, videogames, reading). For my wife, the sleep itself is the reward which made it harder when she didn’t get much.”

An Army father made the comment that: “I thought I was used to lack of sleep when out on exercise, but in the Army you have an end point so you know it won’t last forever. With a newborn, this isn’t the case and makes it harder to cope. Also, you know that the Army won’t make you do anything dangerous when you are sleep-deprived, such as operating machinery.

However, I know lots of exhausted fathers who have to get up and drive to work in the morning.” Other fathers agreed, making the point that a baby’s sleep patterns can be totally unpredictable and require endless patience. Trying to console a sobbing baby in the middle of the night so that your wife can get some sleep is a daunting task.

Trying to console a sobbing baby in the middle of the night so that your wife can get some sleep is a daunting task

Some fathers explain how their wives took the brunt of it: “There seemed little point in having two exhausted adults in the household, bickering at each other. I took on extra chores, like buying and cooking dinner for us both, hanging out washing etc, so she didn’t feel she was doing everything, but it was a mutual decision and I was lucky that she felt the sleepless nights were her responsibility. It was partly to do with her desire to breastfeed, which I couldn’t help with, but I do take my hat off to her – I couldn’t have done it.”

Another father explained how he agonised over the changes his newborn had brought. “Whilst the mother is fully occupied caring for the new baby, the father feels rather spare but doesn’t have time to fret during the day. This happens when you put your head on the pillow – these guilt trips and mixed emotions play on your anxieties and hinder you from sleep. Quite often, I have remained awake to try to understand if I could help more. You also feel the mother and newborn have a stronger bond, so you do whatever it takes (even at the expense of sleep) to grow the bond between yourself and the new addition.”

Given that the fathers in the survey were clients of Night Nannies, it is unsurprising that the question, “How did you deal with your sleep deprivation?” brought the unanimous answer, “Get a Night Nanny”! However, fathers drew on experience of previous babies to say that eventually the sleep deprivation does get better and you find that you are a stronger couple as a result of your shared suffering. One father summed it up for everyone by saying: “I just look at our lovely daughter each morning and all my resentment and tiredness melt away.”

Georgie Bateman runs Night Nannies in Hampshire and has extensive experience of helping parents deal with sleep deprivation. For more information, call 01794 301762 or e-mail [email protected]


The National Childbirth Trust (NCT)

The NCT is the UK’s leading charity for parents. They support people through pregnancy, birth and early parenthood. Many NCT groups have dads groups and activities.

The NCT has also launched two new sets of resources for dads and dads-to-be – written by dads: Dad’s View – Becoming a Parent Dad’s View – Early days with your Baby

They can be downloaded free: getting-help/dads

They also point dads towards these extremely useful groups and websites for support and advice:


What to Expect in the First Year by Eisenberg Murkoff & Hathaway
The Bloke’s Guide to Babies by Jon Smith

Web Links
Advice on coping with a crying or sleepless baby.  The Cry-sis helpline – 08451 228 669 (08451 ACT NOW) – is open seven days a week from 9am to 10pm Source of dad specific information and the provider of the Dad Card, which is distributed in maternity units
Provides a range of information from conception through to early days. Includes a pregnancy planning toolkit and specific dad pages
Up-to-date information on benefits, entitlements and rights for parents Irreverent guide for dads produced by Bounty
Reference Site on all aspects of having a baby at home
Links to childminders and Children’s Centres in your area A website for stay-at-home dads


Working Families The UK’s work-life balance organisation. It helps children, working parents and carers and their employers find a better balance between responsibilities at home and work. Its free legal helpline gives parents and carers legal and in-work benefits advice, as well as helping them to negotiate the flexible hours they want

The Fatherhood Institute

www.fatherhoodinstitute Provides practical support and guidance for dads and dads to be. It publishes research on fatherhood as well as lobbying for a more father inclusive approach to policy, law and employment

Sure Start surestart/whatsurestartdoes
The government run network of 3,500 Children’s Centres provides a range of services to parents

The Daycare Trust For advice and help finding childcare

Home Start Practical and emotional support for families provided at home by volunteers who have parenting experience themselves