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.
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, the study found.
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.’
MOTHERS WITH POSTNATAL DEPRESSION ARE MORE LIKELY TO HAVE DIFFICULT CHILDREN
Mothers with postnatal depression are more likely to have difficult children, research revealed last month.
Sufferers of the mental health condition who are insensitive towards their children are more likely to have youngsters with difficult temperaments, a study found.
Researchers believe mothers who respond to their children’s needs, even if they are battling depression, teach their youngsters how to regulate negative emotions.
Families with effective communication where everyone is involved in raising the children may also aid infant’s self-regulation, they found.
Lead author Dr Stephanie Parade from Brown University, said: ‘Maternal postpartum depression was only associated with persistently difficult infant temperament. This work underscores the importance of supporting families in the postpartum period.’
How the study was carried out
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.’
‘Not feeling supported creates a drift’
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.
Mr Reader said: ‘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.’
‘Have these conversations early and upfront’
The researchers believe their findings highlight the importance of communication between parents.
Mr Reader said: ‘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.
Study author Professor Douglas Teti adds the health and wellbeing of parents is just as important as that of children.
He said: ‘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.
‘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.