Whether you're a first timer or seasoned parent, dealing with a fussy newborn can feel all too familiar. During the day, your newborn is an adorable, sleepy ball of mush. When the sun goes down, they are (inconveniently) ready to party. Trust us, you’re far from alone.
Day/Night Confusion is incredibly common in newborns. It’s a remnant from baby’s time in the womb, when your daily activities managed to “rock” baby to sleep, and your stillness at night invited those 3 AM kicks. For most babies, day/night confusion lasts anywhere from one to eight weeks, but there are some things you can do to rectify it sooner rather than later, so you can both get some much-needed rest.
During the Day:
- Let the light in! Natural light aids in normalizing the circadian rhythm and tells babies and adults alike that it’s time to rise and shine. Try to keep those curtains and blinds open, and if weather permits, get outside for a walk for longer stretches.
- Don’t cover the windows for naps. In the first 2-3 months, have your little one nap in the daylight. After that, baby will want a darker environment for sleep, but in the early days, natural light exposure during the day is key for their internal clock.
- If baby can tolerate it, keep day noises, like TV, talking on the phone, and siblings playing at “normal” volume. In the very early months, babies can sleep through a fair bit of noise but if you do find that baby wakes easily, it’s okay to turn the volume down or lower your voice. Once they reach 2-3 months, use white noise to block sudden sounds during night sleep and napping to help improve sleep schedule.
- When baby is awake, engage with them through moments of talking, singing and cooing. In the beginning, wakeful periods may be as short as 30 minutes, and a newborn shouldn't be awake longer than 90 minutes to prevent them from becoming overtired.
- Develop a bedtime routine, even something as simple as a bath, nighttime feeding or a quick lullaby. Even a newborn baby can thrive on routine, and it won’t be long before yours realizes these repetitive actions mean it’s time to sleep for the night. There’s no magic formula for baby's sleep and what a routine should entail, it just has to be repetitive, night after night.
- Limit your use of lights before bed. Use as dim of lighting as possible when going through your bedtime routine and last feed of the night.
- Keep nighttime feeds strictly business. While feedings are a wonderful way to bond, save the smiles and eye contact for the daytime feeds and playtime. At nighttime, be gentle, responsive and well, boring. Trust us, this will help avoid night waking in the middle of the night.
- Use a white noise machine to keep outside noise from waking baby.
- Use a swaddle.
Remember: babies are noisy sleepers, so be sure yours is truly awake and not just making sounds in their sleep before removing them from their crib or bassinet. Wait for a real, true hangry crying, or other signs that indicate what baby needs to avoid future sleep problems.
Day/Night Confusion is just one common sleep issue new parents may have to navigate with a newborn baby. For pro tips and tricks on how to navigate the others and establish healthy sleep habits from the start, check out Tinyhood’s Newborn Sleep Online Course. You can also schedule a 1:1 consultation with our certified pediatric sleep consultant and experts. Sleep training and instilling a sleep routine can feel intimidating, especially in the early days, but a little bit of knowledge will leave you feeling a lot more empowered.
About the Author
Jennifer D is a certified Sleep Consultant with more than 20 years of hands-on experience in early childhood education. As a Gentle Sleep Coach, Jennifer‘s philosophy serves as an alternative for parents who resist the cry it out method. Her step-by-step method has a 95% success rate when the child is healthy and the parents are consistent.