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Newborn Day and Night Confusion

Wouldn't it be lovely if babies came out of the womb and knew daytime was for naps, and nighttime was for sleeping long stretches? Unfortunately, most do not. It can more often than not feel like your little one is sleeping all day and partying all night.

What's the norm?

Your newborn needs to eat every 2-3 hours at night, so it's very, very normal for your newborn to wake that frequently at night, often times even more excessively. It doesn't matter what your fancy book told you or that Jenny from down the street has a newborn who sleeps through the night already. That is not the norm for a newborn.

What is day and night confusion?

During pregnancy, your baby's sleep patterns are very closely tied to mom's movement. You may have noticed that when you were up and moving around, baby often was still and likely sleeping in your womb - lulled to sleep by your movement. Anytime you lay down to rest, it's likely your baby would wake up and become more active. Think back to when you felt the most baby kicks in your womb. I'm going to bet most of that activity occurred when you were sitting or laying down resting.

When in the womb, baby relies completely on mom (including mom's hormones - specifically melatonin) to sleep. But once baby is born, he has to figure out his own internal clock to tell him when it's daytime or nighttime, which is still very under developed and will be for some time.

How to fix your newborn's day and night confusion

Babies can't tell time - all babies have to learn the difference between day and night. Unfortunately, day and night confusion can last up to 8 weeks and cause a lot of additional exhaustion for parents when baby wants to sleep all day and party all night.

The tips below will help baby’s circadian rhythm and hormone levels sync to clear up any day/night confusion more quickly:

  • First feeding of the day should occur with as much natural light as possible.

  • Keep daytime interesting and engaging, but don’t over-stimulate.

  • During the day, open the blinds, get fresh air in the house, and natural sunlight.

  • In the evenings, lower the lights and create a calm, low-stress environment to signal that it’s no longer daytime.

  • Make sure any middle of the night feedings occur in a dark room with little to no light. Your phone’s flashlight on the lowest setting is the most light you should have.

If you remain consistent with these things, your baby’s body will soon sync to natural wake and sleep patterns.

When can I sleep train?

I know the newborn stage is exhausting. Your child is not developmentally able to self-soothe until at least 16 weeks adjusted age (calculated from due date, not actual birth date). Remember that until then, your newborn relies completely on you to help them soothe and provide them comfort.

If your newborn wakes at night looking for a feeding, offer it. Most newborns need to eat every 2-3 hours during the day AND at night (or as advised by your pediatrician).

If your newborn is crying, do not leave them to cry it out in the hopes they'll fall back to sleep - they can't self-soothe yet and need you to intervene and help them connect their sleep cycles so they can fall back asleep.

Need more help?

Download my Newborn Survival Guide for more info and tips on:

  • newborn naps

  • wake times

  • routines

  • bedtimes

  • troubleshooting shorts naps

  • pacifier use

  • where baby should sleep and more!

How I can help

My goal is to provide SIMPLE, data-driven, step-by-step sleep programs for the tired parent who's ready to SLEEP AGAIN! Whether you have a brand-new baby, a 3-year-old who's never slept through the night, or you just need some help making a schedule change. I have a program just for you!


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