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How to resolve day / night confusion with your nocturnal newborn

You just had your first (or even third) baby, and he seems to be nocturnal like your cats. You think to yourself, “Yikes, this isn’t what I expected, I need help --- fast!” The good news is that this is just a phase like anything else in life, but the bad news is that this nocturnal life can last up to 8 weeks. This nocturnal baby life is called day / night confusion and most babies are born with this because they were used to being in the womb and lulled to sleep during the day when mom was active. At night, the mom was sleeping and that’s when your baby was awake. To top it off, your little bundle of joy was used to a dark and warm environment aka “the womb” so there were no cues to help your baby recognize the difference between night and day. And quite honestly, your baby is born and just doesn’t care – lol.

Don’t fret, there are things you can do now to help try to resolve day night confusion. Below are my top tips as to how to work on this now so the late slumber parties can stop ASAP.

Establish a wake-up time, and take a walk

Begin establishing a wake time for your baby and be sure to wake baby up no later than 8 am. I know it’s exhausting, but you must start your day at some point. So, wake your baby up, feed them, and nap them in the open (lighted living room). When you establish a morning wake up and expose your little one to natural light it will help them establish their circadian rhythm. In fact, studies show that babies who are exposed to natural light during the day sleep better at night and adapt to a 24-hour time cycle faster than those who are only exposed to artificial indoor lights. So take your baby outside, and get your day started!

Nap baby out in the open and keep noises and routines like you normally would

With time you will have your baby sleep in their crib / bassinet in a dark bedroom / environment. But for the first 6 – 8 weeks nap your little one out in the open. This means in a pack and play in your living room while you are cleaning, in a baby sling or wrap, in your arms, etc. Keep the lights on, noises at normal tone. No need to whisper. Just go on with your normal daily activities such as cooking and cleaning. No need to tip-toe around your baby during those first few months.

Limit daytime naps to no more than 3 hours

If your newborn is sleeping and it’s been 3 hours (during the day), wake them for a feed. We want to help establish more feeds during the day than at night. This is one key tip that many parents do not know about, or they are simply so tired that they want to sleep when baby is sleeping. However, this is an important tip as you want to feed baby more during the day and wake them to establish more wake time during the day. They can go back to sleep after their feed as wake time should only be about 30 – 45 minutes during those early weeks but trust me on this one – this is a key tip that many parents just don’t know about.

Keep nights boring and dark

The opposite should occur at night. Dim the lights during your last feeding before bed and turn off all electronics. Remain quiet and calm and start a bedtime routine. Keep your voice low and soothing. For middle of the night feeds just stick to the feed, no more extra interaction, and place baby back down for sleep. Keep it dull, and boring.

Finally, remember that no matter how your baby’s sleep time is distributed—mostly in the day, mostly at night, or a combination of the two—the overall need for sleep remains the same, which is vital for growth and development. A newborn needs a minimum 16 hours, and as much as 20 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period. That’s a lot of sleep, so if your newborn is sleeping much less then it’s time to reach out to a sleep consultant like myself or someone else that you trust. Feel free to reach out to schedule a FREE discovery call at

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