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5 Steps to Correct Your Newborn's Day-Night Confusion

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Cara Dumaplin

baby yawning after being up all night with day-night confusion

Do you have a newborn who likes to sleep all day and be up all night? You’re not alone. Day-night confusion is so common in newborns.

Let's talk about why day-night confusion happens and tips to help.

Why do newborns experience day-night confusion? 

As adults, we have an internal clock known as the circadian rhythm. That circadian rhythm is regulated by our hormones, including the sleepy hormone, melatonin. It's also driven by the light and darkness outside and the schedule you typically follow. Do you find yourself waking up on the weekend at the same time your alarm normally goes off during the week? This is your circadian rhythm in action. 

Your newborn doesn’t have this rhythm quite yet. They are still developing that internal clock that tells them it’s time to sleep, and those sleepy hormones aren’t regulated until closer to 3-4 months. This is why we see babies who sleep all day and are up all night.

How do you fix your newborn being up all night?

1. Start your day no later than 7:00-8:00 a.m. 

I know this will feel so hard. Maybe you’ve been up every hour or awake since 4 a.m. with your newborn. Starting your day early is the LAST thing you want to do, especially when your baby is finally sleeping. 

But remember, your goal is to break the cycle of your newborn being up all night. And since your baby relies on you for external cues about the difference between day and night, starting early is the first step. This allows for your baby to have a full day before bedtime.

2. Offer full feedings during the day.

Many times newborns who’ve been up all night LOVE to snack. Maybe you’ve seen this? Your baby wakes up for a short time, eats, drifts back to sleep, and continues this cycle all day and all night. They eat just enough to take the edge off their hunger. Instead of allowing for snacking and sleepy eating, we want to really encourage full feedings

3. Be intentional with your wake windows during the day.

Understanding wake windows and sleepy cues can help you get that much-needed awake time for your baby without making him overtired. 

Your newborn’s wake windows will be short at first. Here are common wake windows by age for those first few months.

0-4 Weeks: 35-60 minutes

4-12 Weeks: 60-90 minutes

3-4 Months: 75-120 minutes

It may feel like feeding takes up that whole wake window at first, but try to incorporate at least a few minutes of newborn play. This active awake time cues your newborn that daytime is for playing and interaction.

4. Use light and darkness to your advantage.

Light and darkness are the perfect visual cues for your newborn that day is for playing and night is for sleeping. Using natural daylight as well as lights around your home stimulates your baby’s brain.

  • Use daylight during the day to help your baby stay awake. Open your curtains, switch on your lamps. Help your newborn understand that light means it’s time to be up, play, and interact. If the weather is nice, go outside for some air and sunshine.

  • You don’t need to have a light, bright room for naps. We still want a dark environment for naps so your baby can rest.

  • As you get your newborn ready for bed at night, dim the lights around your home. Dimming the lights around the house and making it darker is a great external cue that it's time to get into our jammies and go to sleep. One way to do this is to start a bedtime routine.

  • Try to maintain the lowest light possible – that is safe for you and your baby – during night feedings and diaper changes. A great low light alternative is a red light bulb, which is not nearly as stimulating to the brain. You can simply swap out a regular light bulb for a red one or get a nightlight where you can choose the color.

5. Take my newborn class.

In this class, I’ll give you the tools you need to conquer day-night confusion, read your baby's sleepy cues, set a flexible sleep schedule, calm a fussy baby, and – best of all – LOVE the newborn stage.

How long does newborn day-night confusion last?

Every baby is different. Some newborns adjust in just a few days, and others take a little longer. Implementing these tips will help you move in the right direction as quickly as possible. I know that newborn day-night confusion can feel tough, but don’t forget that there is no better parent on the planet for that baby than you.

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