After a while, you decide it’s time to have a baby. Babies can light up your life and bring much joy to your family.
In your daydreams, you may imagine going on family walks or bike rides, family pictures, and many laughs.
But, first, you have to get through the newborn days. Marriage after baby is a different ball game altogether. Ways baby not sleeping may be ruining your marriage is abound.
And, for some, that means quite a bit of sleep deprivation, with sleepless babies.
Unfortunately, the old adage “sleep like a baby” isn’t always a good thing.
For some, it will mean waking up every hour or two all night long. This article will uncover how your baby not sleeping can impact (and maybe even wreck) your marriage.
Often after baby marriage problems crop up.
Before we delve into how to avoid marriage problems after baby, let’s plunge headlong into how things change after having a baby.
Here’s a look at how a baby not sleeping can impact, maybe even wreck your marriage.
Exhaustion and irritability
Almost everyone will tell you to expect some sleepless nights with a newborn.
It’s natural since they need to eat every 2-3 hours for the first several weeks of life. Although it might be tiring, you’re happy to care for your newborn. After all, this is what you signed up for!
When a few weeks turns into 8 weeks, however, the exhaustion starts to reach a whole new level. And, pretty soon, your baby hits the 4 month sleep regression and might be waking up every hour or two all night.
As you pass several sleepless nights with a newborn, you might still think your baby will outgrow this and keep plugging along.
But, what you might not see right away is how the exhaustion is impacting your marriage. And, unfortunately, babies don’t always outgrow their sleep problems.
There is a connection between sleep and mood. When your toddler wakes up crying at night, disrupting the sleep, you might be more irritable and short-tempered with your spouse the following day.
This can often lead to more bickering and arguments. Frequent spats are one of the common marriage problems after baby.
With more frequent arguments, it might mean you feel more emotionally distant from your spouse or that you’re not on the same page. You may argue about how to raise the baby or about other common troubles in a marriage.
One thing you may not anticipate is your spouse can be jealous of the baby. After all, your spouse may have gotten a lot of attention from you before the baby. And now, your spouse has to share you.
This is understandable and most couples will find their groove.
But, when your baby isn’t sleeping, it means one or both of you are having to tend to the baby more frequently. Even with perfect sleep, babies need a lot of attention!
Once past the newborn phase, babies are supposed to sleep around 14 hours a day. But, if you are tending to the baby for much of that time, your spouse may not feel as important or feel resentment build. This might increase the average amount of jealousy to an unhealthy level. Jealousy in marriage may turn out to be many of the marriage problems after baby.
Most of the time, marriage leads to a longer life, but stress in a marriage can have the opposite effect.
Lack of couple time
When babies are sleeping an average of 14 hours a day, you’d think you would have plenty of couple time with your spouse. After all, many babies 4 to 12 months old will often go to bed around 7 PM. Being friends in marriage is important to a healthy relationship.
But, until your baby sleeps through the night, you may not be getting the dedicated one-on-one time you might think.
First, if your baby is waking every hour and you have to tend to him or her for 20 minutes at a time, your one-on-one time is disrupted and might not feel like quality time.
Another thing to consider is that your spouse might be going to bed at the same time as the baby just to get more shut-eye before needing to tend to the baby again.
Without an adequate amount of time as couples, you might feel more disconnected. You might not have emotional intimacy and can feel you are living separate lives at times. And, without emotional intimacy, oftentimes, physical intimacy is lacking, too. That is a horde of marriage problems after baby a couple can face.
How to help your baby sleep and improve your marriage
With several facets of your relationship impacted and a host of marriage problems after baby, it is important to help your baby sleep age-appropriately ASAP.
Here are 5 tips to help your baby sleep better, circumvent marriage problems after baby, and improve your marriage.
Work together – Before we had a baby, my husband and I had divided up the household chores. But, after our first baby was born, we realized quickly that the chores needed to be redistributed. Although I may have done the dishes after he cooked before, now I had baby stuff to do. Even if the baby duties can’t be distributed equally necessarily, the rest of the chores can be reassigned and re-evaluated as the children get older. I also made the decision to take on much of the nighttime duties because I felt he could handle my irritability better on a full night’s rest and he could pick up more slack during the day. If you manage to achieve this mutual understanding, you won’t need to worry about marriage problems after baby.
Start a sleep routine – Developing a sleep routine to follow during nap times and bedtime will help set your baby’s expectations and cue them to sleep. Babies who are ready for sleep tend to be soothed to sleep faster and easier. A bedtime routine doesn’t have to be very long or complicated as long as it’s relatively consistent. A simple routine might include a little baby massage, fresh diaper, putting on pajamas, a feeding, reading a book, a snuggle/rocking/swaying, and a key phrase to signal it’s time to sleep.
Get baby on a schedule – Although you may or may not be a Type-A schedule-loving type of person, getting your baby on a schedule can vastly improve his or her sleep. Babies who are over-tired tend to wake more frequently at night, for example. And, knowing your baby will go to sleep around 7 PM and sleep at least 5 hours, might give you a couple of hours for some much-needed quality time together. That will help you stay close and keep marriage problems after baby at bay.
Know when it might be time to night-wean – Babies need to eat in the middle of the night for several months, but not necessarily every hour or two once they’ve regained their birth weight. Learning the signs for when it’s time to night-wean and how many night feedings are age-appropriate can be a life-saver and help you set realistic expectations. This can save you from months of sleepless nights!
Accept differences – The way you parent is going to differ from your spouse’s and that’s okay! Just like with other parenting tasks, watching your spouse put the baby to sleep might be painful to watch, at first.
But, if you accept they may do it differently and allow them to keep trying, they will find what works for them. Babies learn very quickly different caretakers have different ways of doing things. If you keep “saving” your spouse, you may find that you are the only one who can put the baby to bed.
This might be okay for a week or two, but can start wearing on you over time. Let your spouse learn their way of doing it and it will pay off for both of you and your baby.
Parenting is full of many rewards but can be difficult when it leads to marriage problems after baby.
But, following just these few tips on overcoming marriage problems after baby will help you and your family get more sleep and be that much more likely to thrive and be happier.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Nicole Johnson is a married mother of two wonderful boys and owner of The Baby Sleep Site. When her eldest son was born, he had a lot of sleep problems – he would wake every one or two hours, all night long! Nicole got busy and thoroughly researched literature and scientific reports until she became an expert in sleep methods, scheduling routines, baby developmental needs, and more. She overcame her son's sleeping issues in a way that matched her own parenting style, and knew it was her mission to help other tired parents "find their child's sleep". If you have your own sleep issues, Nicole and her team at The Baby Sleep Site® can help! Download the popular free guide, 5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night, to get started today.