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Once a sibling is born, parents often notice behavioural deterioration in their child. Combined with sleep deprivation, parents can find themselves with little tether, quick to anger and struggling to juggle the rapid family expansion. In short, they become cross parents. Thankfully this situation is entirely preventable, and most importantly, it’s incredibly simple to implement.

What causes this behaviour deterioration?

Three months is the average window of time that a child will enjoy a new toy, before becoming tired of it and wanting to move on to something else. When it comes to a newborn, we can’t just pop them in a box at the top of the cupboard at 3 months of age. So toddlers understandably become frustrated that this now-old toy continues to divert attention. In a nuclear family, they become especially perturbed by the decreased availability of their mother.

How does this affect parents, and how can they cope better?

In my experience, parents often struggle with toddler behavioural deterioration, especially when combined with sleep deprivation. Thankfully this is entirely preventable; not only is there a solution, the idea of “cross-parenting” is irrefutably backed by science.
In this aforementioned nuclear family – with mother, father, and 2 children – the ostensibly logical play is to have mum care for the newborn and dad spend time with the toddler. While this allows for beautiful mother-baby bonding and terrific father-toddler relationship growth, it drives immense toddler frustration with family-wide consequences. Enter – “cross-parenting”

How does one do “cross-parenting”?

The idea is to swap parental roles almost entirely. The father takes care of the newborn, and the mother manages the toddler. With a breastfed baby, the only act that a father cannot do is breastfeed the baby. Everything else, however, is possible. In cross-parenting, the dad performs all the baby duties, from winding to changing and settling to bathing. Mum is now free to rest, replenish milk if breastfeeding, recover and spend time with her toddler – making them feel that they remain the centre of their mother’s universe.

Will mothers miss out on the newborn love bubble?

This does not in any way dent the mother-baby bond, nor does it diminish the father-toddler connection. An emotionally available, well-rested mother with an emotionally balanced toddler will find attachment to all children easier. It brings parents closer, with more collaboration and communication within the family unit.

How does “cross-parenting” work for parents without generous paternity leave packages?

Cross-parenting is not just for families with generous paternity leave packages: in the first few weeks of life, these jobs are 24/7, so for some families, the switch may happen in the mornings, the evenings, night settling and on weekends.


  • Dr Daniel Golshevsky (AKA Dr Golly)

    Dr. Daniel Golshevsky (AKA Dr. Golly) is a Melbourne-based paediatrician and father of three. Specialising in unsettled babies and poor sleep, Dr. Golly developed this program through his work with thousands of babies over more than a decade of practice. With a focus on empowering parents and protecting mothers, Dr. Golly turns up the volume of that innate parental instinct to maximise parents' understanding of their baby's cues and bring everyone closer to a full night's sleep.