One of the hardest parts of being a mom to a newborn baby is being up all times of the day and night, not knowing how long they’ll sleep for and when their longest stretch of sleep will be. While this is completely normal because of day and night confusion, there are things we can do to help.
What is day and night confusion?
Day and night confusion is when a newborn baby sleeps around the clock off and on with no real pattern. Their longest period of sleep (which may be no longer than 4 hours) can happen any time of the day or night. This is due to their underdeveloped nervous system.
When babies are still in their mother’s womb they received cues from their mother about different times of the day due to things like Melatonin, their mother’s circadian rhythm and the changes they perceive in their mother’s activity levels. Out of the womb, it takes a baby months to develop their circadian rhythm.
How can you help your baby organize their day and nights?
Days and nights can take time to organize. On average a baby tends to start to sleep a longer stretch overnight around 6 to 8 weeks, but in the meantime, there are things that you can do to help them.
Have a wake-up routine in the morning. This will help them learn the difference between this wake-up and the ones they do overnight.
Expose them to sunlight during the day by going out and about.
Newborns can nap in a brightly lit room during the day. It’s okay to have activities like cooking, cleaning or playing with older kids go on around a napping newborn. It even helps to show the difference between night and day time.
Feed every 3 hours during the day even if they are still sleeping, but don’t hesitate to wait if they sleep longer than that overnight (if your pediatrician agrees).
Have a before bedtime routine, even if it is short and simple (e.g. bath, diaper, pajamas, feed, and a lullaby). As a baby starts to pick up on cues and make connections they will learn that this is when they sleep a long time overnight,
Keep wake ups overnight dark and quiet with only a sound machine on, to show that it is still nighttime. Try not to turn on too much light when you feed or do a diaper change.
Remember that babies are noisy sleepers, They can make grunts, groans, and cries in their sleep. So it is important to be sure a baby is truly awake before stepping in. Having a brief pause before picking up a newborn can help with this.
Newborns sleep so much but as the weeks progress their sleep becomes more organized. They will consolidate their sleep so that they sleep longer stretches overnight and have more awake times during the day. Within a matter of months, it’ll feel like you no longer have a newborn anymore and you’ll miss it!
If you’d like to learn more about newborn sleep and establishing healthy sleep from the start, you can purchase my newborn sleep guide where I go over all the most important information and tips for newborn sleep success.