How to Accommodate a New Baby in a Shift Work Schedule

Here are some suggestions for coping with a shift work schedule when both of you must continue to work and you have a new baby in the family. It will not be easy and you'll probably need to rely on trustworthy people sourced from your family, friends and neighbors to help you out as much as possible.


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    Work together as a team. Since both of you must continue working, for whatever reason, and both of you are responsible for this new life, then both of you must work as a team. This means keeping open the communication channels about everything.
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    Sit down and write out your schedule on paper. Allocate work time, sleep time and baby time. There is no time for anything else for the first few months. Your priorities are these three things alone. Where you find clashes or gaps in the schedule, you will need to discuss who is best able to make changes; or which relatives or friends or neighbors may be able to fill in for you during these times. For example, difficult times might include commuting time or crucial sleep time when only one partner is available.
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    Ask for hours or shifts that work for both of you. If one of you has a day job and the other has a night job, this will be a little easier than if both of you work shifts. In the first case, you will have more opportunities to share the caring responsibilities. If both of you work shifts, however, you will both need to ask your employers to accommodate different time arrangements. Whoever has the most flexibility in timing arrangements will be the one who has to make arrangements around the other partner's work timetable. Always let your employer know that your needs are temporary, until the baby is older and you can find other, suitable arrangements.
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    Ask for help. Be open and forthright about your needs with others. Tell people that you feel you can trust to help out why both of you need to keep working and how, for a short time, you would really appreciate minor help here and there. The more people you seek help from, the more likely you will gather a little pool of helpers who can pitch in for you when needed.
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    Accept that both of you need to make room for uninterrupted sleep. You will be more tired than you have ever felt before juggling work and a baby. All the same, you must ensure that you both get a minimum amount of uninterrupted sleep to reduce the likelihood of making mistakes at work. The partner who is working shift work is already undertaking a difficult task, as the body is being asked to cope with staying awake at unusual hours. Accidents happen very easily to over-tired people. However, with a new baby, both of you are effectively working shift work, whether you like it or not! So it is very important to plan uninterrupted sleep as a key part of your schedule.
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    Maintain a positive outlook. A new baby becomes less demanding over time and the options for daycare will open up to free up your schedules. Until then, however, you must support one another and reassure each other that caring for your baby is the most important priority. Openly acknowledge that sacrifices must be made for a short period of time. It may be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel but there are millions of parents who can assure you that you will make it.
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    Keep in touch. If there are problems, both of you should have speed dial lines of communication to one another. Again, alert your employer that there may be minor emergencies during which you will need to either leave work temporarily or earlier than usual, or even during which you may need to absent yourself from work. Always reassure your employer that you will make up for lost time and ask the employer for any suggestions they have (meaning, don't assume that your employer will be happy about having to make such allowances).
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    Spend as much time with the baby yourself after work. Play, snuggle up, talk and sing together.
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    Thank each other. Both of you have a special gift in each other and in the baby. Don't forget to let each other know how much love you still have for each other and how loved your child is.


  • If one partner is working day shift, this person will most likely be responsible for nighttime feeding. This is simply a fact of life and is something that shell-shocked parents get used to, however reluctantly. Your body does cope but your mind will take a while to catch up. Expect feelings of sheer exhaustion, headaches and possible delirium at times. It does pass.
  • Enjoy the time on weekends with baby together. It is also important to allot times for just you, where each partner has an opportunity to take time out alone for a rest, a hobby, a little shopping to refresh and recuperate.
  • If you are working during the day, use your lunch breaks to run errands. Take a healthy, packed lunch to eat quickly at the beginning of lunch to allow yourself time to pay bills, fetch groceries and other important duties. That way, your evenings are freed up even more to spend time with the baby instead of fretting about difficult excursions away from the house.
  • Consider rescheduling your budget if it is all becoming too much. You may be surprised how much you can do without and live on just one wage for a short while. See a financial planner if you need help. Sometimes it can be a case of changing mortgage repayments, moving to a smaller home or changing loan repayments etc. and a financial planner will be best placed to help you with these arrangements.
  • Drink plenty of water and remember to eat well - if you aren't taking care of yourself, you will have a harder time taking care of the baby.
  • If both of you are working shifts, there are more and more 24 hour day care centers springing up in some countries. These may be a good option for you. Do your research and ask questions when visiting these places to reassure yourself of the standard of care provided.
  • Express breast milk at home and at work and keep in storage. This will ensure that your baby is getting the best nutrition possible in the mother's absence. Seek advice on breast milk pumps from maternity nurses, your hospital ward or baby stores. You can also browse online for different models but it often pays to ask friends about their opinions of the best ones.


  • If you or your spouse become angry or upset, remember that the attitude can pass on to the baby.
  • Don't forget that you were a husband/wife before you were a mother/father. Baby will be top priority, but your spouse has to be a very close second or working alternate shifts can tear your marriage apart.
  • Do not juggle so much that your health suffers. If you do more than you can handle, you may suffer a breakdown and that helps nobody. Ease off other commitments such as volunteer work, hobbies, other family commitments, work events etc. as much as possible. Be honest with people as to why you cannot be around and let them know it is only temporary while you are raising your baby.
  • All work and no fun can be very bad for a relationship and personal health. Make some time for play on the weekends or during days off. There is no reason why this play cannot include baby - visit a zoo, a park, a cinema with a special screening for parents with babes. However, also consider making an arrangement for each parent to have time out from caring and sharing - time to spend just on themselves. A good method is for each parent to get a 3 hour block of personal time every second weekend.

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