How to Wake Up During The Night – Every Dad’s Nightmare

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I should start by saying that this is also every mums nightmare too! There’s very few of us human beings that enjoy getting up at 3am but what I mean is that it’s a whole different ball game than for mums. 
I sleep. 
I sleep well. 
I sleep deeply. 
So deeply in fact, there’s very few things that can wake me. 
So deeply, if the wife does try and wake me I can have a full blown conversation with her, fall back to sleep and have no recollection of it come morning. 
I sleep talk, 
sleep walk, 
sleep murmur, 
sleep noise, 
sleep grind 
and just about anything else that could potentially disturb the wife. 

On top of disturbing her, I also rarely wake up for the boy. 

Truth be told, it’s become one of those unfunny, slightly irritating and infuriating jokes in the morning when I roll over and ask her how the night was. I ask for the run down on when he woke or how much he fed etc… 

All joking aside, it is a hard conversation. For her, because she’s the one been up all night feeding etc and hard for me because of the overriding guilt. If I don’t wake up, there isn’t much I can do about it because I don’t seem to have control over this possibility within my own body. The big question in my mind is: How to wake up during the night to help! 

Obviously, I would bend over backwards for the wife, even if it did mean getting up at 3am to sterilise a bottle or get a sleep suit out the tumble dryer. (That did happen actually at 3am…

our tumble dryer is outside in the garage! I hope the neighbours didn’t see my white, bear bum fumbling around…!) 

This is a common problem amongst dads; I’ve had Dad Network readers email in asking about it and if I have any suggestions. The truth is, no, I don’t because I have the same problem. I think this is quite refreshing though. It highlights that we’re all dads, on the same journey, lost at the same 6-way junctions… 

I genuinely have no idea how to solve the problem of how to wake up, so any wisdom would be much appreciated. 

I have however given it plenty of thought. (The wife was very impressed that someone else took the time to send an email seeking for help…
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thanks for that! Made me look like a schmuk! ;) ) 

I’ve come up with a few thoughts and items that I might try myself, to see if helps. 
#1 If I don’t wake up easily, maybe I’m really tired! This might have something to do with the late night blogging sessions, or the match of day (followed by the football league show), or the addictive nature of Jack Bauer but whatever the reason, if my body isn;t waking up, maybe my body is telling me I need more sleep! So I think I’m going to try and go to bed earlier and actually sleep rather than check the Sky Sports app… 

#2 A lot of dads are back to work within a couple of weeks. Working a full days work and then coming home, bathing the baby and putting them down is a long day. (I’m not saying that mums don’t have long hard days, they do) but this could be a contributing factor to the difficulty in waking up and therefore, one should’t beat themselves up too much. 

#3 Set an alarm! The boy wakes at set times. He goes through phases were the wife can tell me the precise (more or less) times that he will wake.
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So, I’m going to set my alarms for 10 minutes before those times. 

#4 When you/if I do wake up, I’m going to go to the toilet and have a drink (not of bourbon although this might actually help…) I wonder if this will stimulate me to wake up to more of a coherent state rather than zombie mode. 

#5 Take the baby from 7 (work permitting). This way I can give the wife a few extra hours in bed before her day can start. This is only possible for us on weekends, but still important. 

#6 When I’m up, find some kind of role. I can’t actually do the breast feeding but I could burp the boy or change his nappy (if it needs it) or just sit and be company for the wife. 

#7 Send the wife out for the night! If you’re the only one at home, believe me, you’ll wake up.

In fact, you probably won’t go to sleep. This does only work if you’re baby is bottle fed or takes a bottle of expressed milk though.

20 weeks in and I haven’t found a decent solution here. I’ve been trying all these things, some for the second time and occasionally it will work, sometimes it won’t!

We did try a night when the wife stayed at her mums. I did wake up when I needed to, and since then, I have noticed being perhaps a little more sensitive to the boy crying in the night. 

I want to be a support to the wife in the night and I don’t want her to resent me to having a solid 8 hours of pretty good kip! 

Please share any solutions or suggestions on how to wake up during the night you have come across. 

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  1. Gary Mathews

    I’d be lying if I said I missed those days. I was fortunate my daughter started sleeping through the night after three months. So I’m one of the lucky ones

    • Al Ferguson

      Grrrrr…. yes… lucky….

  2. martyn

    I was and still am exactly the same when it comes to sleep. My eldest knows not to wake me and if he does he has to ignore everything I say. Like you I sleep function…even sleep text. So its difficult. I struggled with night feeds. I did two things that helped. One drunk a lot the few hours before bed….when nature calls it’s easier to get up. I also had a bowl with water and ice….I ended up waking up putting a flannel in and wiping over my face. This was horrible and torture but with the added fact of needing the loo I did get up.
    All of this, at the time, of getting up the following day. I hope the suggestions work.

    • Al Ferguson

      ooo yeah! I like that idea! Drink lot’s… although it could end badly if I didn’t wake up!

  3. Kevin

    We take the attitude that I take up the slack through the day , giving Carolyn as much time to relax/nap as possible. If she needs me she wakes me, but I seem to wake instinctively if she’s having a hard time of it. I cannot breastfeed, but I can make sure that we have a supply of washed nappies etc. We both know that Carolyn’s hormones help her to get back to sleep, we’ve not got that advantage as Dads, so to do otherwise would push us too far. There’s no point in both of us not having energy through the day.

    • Al Ferguson

      You can’t breastfeed? You need to sort that out… ;)

  4. Brian Scott

    I wish I had something insightful to say, but I’m the complete opposite. I am a very light sleeper, I need quiet and darkness to just go to sleep. So, as you can imagine, having a toddler makes it to where I don’t get any sleep. Although, my wife can sleep through a thunder storm of great proportions, lol.

  5. Anna

    Love this post. I can’t offer any answers as my husband has no problem waking but I wrote a post about how our night feeds go…Hope it may help x

  6. amiecaitlin

    Hi, one newish Mama here!

    In the early, early weeks, it meant so much when the OH got up with me. Mainly because I had no idea what I was doing! The week he went back to work, he woke one time to here me nearly crying after I’d been up nearly three hours saying, “Please, just sleep…”. He came in, took our daughter out of my arms & said, ‘go to bed, I got this. I’ll come get you if she’s hungry.’ All we need is support. Just be there for us. Honestly, it means the world.

    We had an agreement from before she was born that while I was on leave, I did the night shift Sunday-Thursday. OH had work & I knew he wouldn’t be able to function if he was up sharing night feeds or whatever. & we couldn’t risk him not being on his game.

    Like Al, OH also took Baby Girl every Saturday & Sunday morning for me after her morning feed so I could get a solid 4 hours sleep until then next feed. He didn’t have a lie in until she was about six months old when I finally started getting something near to a normal night. About once a month, I would stay at my mom’s or my in laws’ for a night or two so he had a night off of worrying about not hearing her, or got a lie in. It’s not much, but we each do what we can.

    I’d say above everything though, your partners’ need to know that they can wake if they need you. That even if you don’t wake up (which my OH never did & probably won’t ever), we can call on you if needs be. At the end of the day, there’s very little in most new mums’ days they couldn’t cancel if they really needed to. Alongside the unwanted resentment we may sometimes feel, we too feel guilty if we get you up in the night & know you have work in the morning. So just make sure your partner feels that you’re approachable at all hours!

    • Al Ferguson

      Wise words! Thanks for your comment. I still haven’t had a lie in… but I do generally sleep better during the night so it works itself out. The thought of still being in bed at 10am though… wow!

  7. amiecaitlin

    apologies for the typos above. Just read it through & cringed. I’m very tired…

  8. Luke Alvarez

    Hows it goin? The name’s Luke! Besides all the rest of the great ideas, there’s one thing that the wife and I did with both kids from very early on. We would sprinkle just a tiny bit of cereal into our children’s milk only before bed around 8 or 9pm. This actually made their stomache more full during the night and NEITHER of them woke up till about 4 or 5am, which was about the time I would wake up for work, and I would just make another bottle, without milk this time, and feed the kiddos. They were good to go till momma woke up about 7 or 8. But if I read correctly, your wife does breast feed? If so, I would check up on that before pulling it off. But hopefully it would help some. Great post and topic! Looking forward to more!

  9. Jenni - Baby Chaos

    Will be following this with interest and then standing over the hubby to make sure he reads this! Boo still wakes several times a night and she is a year, and we can have conversations in the middle of the night and the hubby remains asleep.
    We have found that hubby takes the night wakings from when I go to be until he goes to bed ( a couple of hours after me) and then on days when he can gets up at 6 to give me a bit of a lie in (not really a lie in if I have been up from 4-5 but still it’s the thought that counts right?)

  10. Tim Kotch

    My wife and I have complete opposite roles at night. I was the one who stirred first when the baby(ies) cried. I would get our baby change, if needed, hand her over for breastfeeding and nap while that was going on. I’d then get up rock the baby to sleep and go back to bed. Since our son was born, missing a part of his brain and having no pituitary function, there is even less sleep happening, he’s usually up every two hours for a sip of water then back to sleep. His wake up time us between 3 and 4 am. Thank goodness for iPads because that at least buys me an extra hour to nap before work. Medicine is at 5 am anyway. It is important for the mom to have “mommy time” sans kids. Doing the wash, burping, changing, and listening are all very important “chores” for dad to do when the kids are still babies. Keep up the good work. It only gets better.

  11. Mike Smith (Sunshine Dad)

    I feel like I could have written this same post. I can relate perfectly on almost every point.

    I remember feeling obligated to wake up with my wife every time she got up to breastfeed. I’d talk with her, get her water etc. Then thankfully around the 3rd time I got up with her, she graciously looked at me, smiled and said “I appreciate you getting up with me but you don’t have to.”

    With that I rolled over, went back to bed and never got up again. (Unless she woke me up to ask for something)

    And so many mornings I’d wake up and say “oh it was a good night with the kids, huh?” and she’d give me the side-eye look of disbelief and explain how I was the only one in the house who slept through the night and she only slept for 45 mins. When she’s home I don’t hear anything the kids do. But those nights when she’s gone I wake up when the kids roll over. Funny how your body adjusts to that.

    Great post! Keep up the good work!

    • Al Ferguson

      That’s great! So many dads go through the same things but we just never talk about it!

  12. RC @ Going Dad

    Yep, same story here, I’m a heavy sleeper and hardly hear the monitor or notice when my wife gets out of bed for a feeding. As a stay-at-home dad, I do take care of everything all day everyday and my wife is usually willing to spend time with our daughter anyway.

    That said, it’s never fun to wake up at night, but I can’t breastfeed and know she wants to give the best nutrition to our girl. So, I just remind her how proud I am for what she’s doing and I support her nursing ways however possible (washing the pump parts/bottles, getting water, cooking all meals, etc.).

    Another thing that helps is to spin the situation into how lucky she is for being able to spend those moments with your child. Share an article about how they grow so fast and you can’t hold your child forever, and she might be more excited to get up to cherish those nightly feedings. Good luck and hang tight with the rest of us!

    • Al Ferguson

      “Share an article about how they grow so fast and you can’t hold your child forever, and she might be more excited to get up to cherish those nightly feedings.” This is brilliant! A very good point… if I’m feeling brave, I might share it with her…

  13. Nick S Lionberger

    Im about to be a father with a daughter otw, however I am a deep sleeper.
    Like I have to set 8 alarms to possibly wake up, even though most of the time its my girlfriend yelling at me to turn off my alarm or to wake up.

    Im very grateful I found this and I am going to try a few things to lighten my sleep or whatever you wanna call it. Like you I dont want to be that father that isnt up helping at night when she gets hungry.

  14. Luke

    I’ve just became a dad again to another daughter, I’m struggling getting up at night when she she cries and only get up when my partner wakes me up to get a bottle sometimes I feed her sometimes and once finish i put her down and roll over and sleep and don’t wake up until morning and I ask her how she doing but partner snaps at me for sleeping in, Sometimes I don’t give bottle as use to take in turns but when do again I roll over and sleep, I feel bad and looking for tips of how to wake up as all this putting a strain on our relationship and i want to help my partner as much as can, I very grateful I found this article and going to try a few of these ideas

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