Thinking what to do about your newborn’s day and night confusion?
When your baby is in your womb, you might notice that when you lay down to go to sleep, your baby wakes up! Your baby might kick and punch, keeping you awake. Why does your baby seem to always do that? This is the beginning of your baby confusing day with night.
Your baby likely falls asleep much of the time when you are walking around during the day. You might be cooking in the kitchen, cleaning the house, or shopping at the mall. All that soothing movement puts baby right to sleep. But, even in the womb, babies need to be awake some of the time. So, when you stop moving, they start dancing!
Unfortunately, after your baby is born, they don’t magically know to sleep most of the time at night. This might lead to very long naps and then a very fussy and/or wide-awake baby for 1-2 hours at a time at night. And that can be exhausting for new parents! Here is what to do about your newborn’s day / night confusion.
- Wake Them Up
Wake a sleeping baby? Are you crazy!? I know it sounds crazy, but we can help your baby adjust to day and night by signaling their brain when it’s time to wake and when it’s time to sleep.
Just like with jet lag, we need to adjust the body’s internal clock. The way this works is by indirect sunlight. Light stimulates our eyes, which signals to our brain that it’s daytime and that we should be awake more of the time during the day.
Newborns are notorious for having their days and nights mixed up. A baby sleep expert shares 4 steps you can take to help them get their day and nights sorted out. A must read for expectant parents or new parents. So many helpful tips to get baby sleeping through the night.
Depending on how much sleep your baby is getting during the day, start to scale it back. For example, if they are taking a 4-hour nap (even with a feeding in the middle), start waking them gradually earlier until any single nap is two hours long maximum. Yes, your baby might be fussy, so you don’t have to keep them awake very long. Even 30 minutes will help. Over the course of 1-2 weeks, your baby will be awake more during the day than at night.
- But…Don’t Keep Them Awake Long
I know I just told you that you need to wake your baby, but understand that newborns need a lot of sleep. So, we can’t keep them awake for long between sleep periods. The key is that we want the longer stretches of sleep to be at night and the shorter ones during the day.
Young babies will sleep 16-18 hours in a 24-hour period, so it’s not common for them to be awake too much anyway. But, if they are going to stay awake 45-60+ minutes, we want that to be during the daytime. But the last thing you want is an overtired, fussy baby. So, use an appropriate newborn sleep schedule. Watch for sleepy cues, such as yawning and staring off into space, and then put the baby back to sleep. When they are newborns, they can often stay awake for just 45-60 minutes at a time.
- Set an Appropriate Bedtime
You might start to read on the internet about early bedtimes for babies and this is very true! An early bedtime can do wonders for a baby’s sleep. However, this early bedtime doesn’t start until 8-12 weeks old, on average. If your baby is going to sleep 9-10 hours at night (with feedings every 2-3 hours at night), you want those hours to be restful for yourself and your spouse/partner. For example, your 6-week-old might sleep 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. (with feedings and then right back to sleep.) That means, don’t put them to bed for the night at 7 p.m. until they are older. Otherwise, you might start your day at 4 a.m. Note that if you are breastfeeding, you might want to cluster feed in the evening to increase the stretches of sleep at night.
- Watch for Growth Spurts and Sleep Regressions
Just when you think your baby has fixed their day vs. night confusion, your baby might start sleeping a lot again. They might take super long naps and sleep a lot at night. Keep in mind that your baby will go through a number of growth spurts and sleep regressions, which is when they seem to sleep worse. The 6-week growth spurt can throw you for a curve ball if you felt like sleep was getting better. But don’t worry. It should last just a week or so, and you should let your baby sleep as much as they need. Once your baby is 12+ weeks old, watch out for the 4-month-sleep regression, though. That is a permanent change to how your baby sleeps that can lead to frequent waking at night and short naps.
I hope this article has helped you sort out your newborn’s day and night confusion. Keep in mind that it can take 1-2 weeks to fully resolve, but it should gradually get better. Until then, keep trying to take naps during the day to ease your exhaustion.