Day/Night Confusion

Day/night confusion is a pretty common problem with newborns. Baby wants to sleep all day and stay up all night. So now not only are you having to wake up to feed baby throughout the night, but he won't go back to sleep! He just wants to play or possibly even fuss. Not cool!

So what do you do?

Some experts out there suggest to just wait--baby will eventually figure things out. Sure he will, but how long will that take? If your lucky, only a week or so, if you're unlucky, possibly a few months. Maybe some people are OK with this, but if you're not (and I know I'm not!) you can try out some of the following tips.

How can I fix my baby's day/night confusion?
  • Make sure to keep things calm, dark and quiet at night time. This includes when you initially put baby to sleep (to help him distinguish between bedtime and naptime - see pre-sleep routine) and when baby wakes at night to eat. As cute as baby can be, make sure you don't engage him in anyway at night. I know this is super hard to do when baby is smiling and giggling at you, but remind yourself that you can play plenty with baby during the day.
  • Don't change baby's diaper unless it is needed at night time. When my son Joshua was a newborn I changed his diaper pretty frequently at night, but as he got older and ate less, I didn't change it at all at night. If I did change it, I would usually change it in the middle of a feed so that he would get nice and relaxed again after the diaper change and more easily fall back asleep. To prevent diaper leaks at night, you might want to go up a diaper size (but be aware that if it is too big it will leak more than a smaller diaper) or use night time diapers. You might also want to consider using a wipe warmer at night so that it isn't so startling to baby.
  • When baby wakes at night and needs to eat, feed him quickly so that he doesn't become wide awake and have a hard time falling asleep again. If you are bottle-feeding, try to have all your bottle-feeding supplies close at hand so that baby can be fed as quick as possible. With my son Joshua I actually ended up waiting until he started to cry before I fed him at night. This may not sound very nice, but if I didn't wait for him to cry, he would be so sleepy that he'd stop eating after about 10 seconds of nursing. If I let him cry before eating, he'd actually eat something before falling back asleep. Obviously this won't be true for all babies, but I thought I'd mention it.
  • Establish a consistent pre-sleep routine that varies slightly from day and night to help signal to baby what time of day it is.
  • Don't let baby go more than 3 hours between feeds during the day (even if you have to wake baby for a feed). This encourages baby to eat more during the day so he will wake less to eat at night. It also helps move some of babies waketime to the day so he will be more likely to sleep at night. Another variation of this is to not let baby sleep for more than 2-3 hours at a time during the day.
  • Some experts suggest that you have baby take his naps in a light, somewhat noisy room to help him distinguish day from night. I tried this at first but found out that after a month or so, my son Joshua was very disturbed by the light and noise and wouldn't sleep well. This is true for most babies as they get a bit older. But hopefully if you decide to do this method, baby will have his days and nights figured out (and you'll have him sleeping in a dark room again) by the time he is old enough to get disturbed by his environment.
  • Sleeping Through The Night states that there is nothing you can do about day/night confusion until your baby is a few weeks old. Other books have similar opinions and go as far to say that there is nothing you can do at all, you just have to wait it out. Obviously I disagree. Every parent I have seen try out the suggestions above has seen improvements, even in newborns.
  • Sleeping Through The Night suggests you try to play with baby as much as possible during the day. I think this is a good suggestion to an extent. If you get baby overly tired or stimulated she will not sleep well for naps. And if she doesn't sleep well for naps, she won't sleep well at night time (at least not in the long run).

Additional Info:
Melatonin also starts to be released around 3-4 months of age. This makes babies feel more sleepy at night and can help resolve day/night confusion.

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