Fix Your Baby’s Day-Night Sleep Confusion

March 1, 2022

There are some babies who are born with their internal clock switched. This means the baby sleeps most of the day and then stays awake for longer periods of time at night. This is called day-night sleep confusion. This can be extremely exhausting for new parents, however, this is pretty common for newborns.

You may be wondering why this happens. While you were pregnant, you moved around a lot during the day, which rocked your baby to sleep. When you sat down in the evenings to rest you probably noticed that your baby woke up and move around.

This is why your newborn sleeps all day and is awake all night…it is what your baby is used to.

Babies are born with immature circadian rhythms. It takes 2 to 4 months for it to fully develop. This is why you will see a baby eating every 2 to 3 hours during the night and day. Correcting this sooner than later will make things easier for everyone.

Around 6 weeks, many newborns will start to have a shift in their day-night sleep confusion and begin to consolidate their nighttime sleep to 3-5 hours, if not more.

That’s good news!

There are some things you can do to help fix your baby’s day-night sleep confusion and get your baby’s regular sleep patterns going. It is possible it will take several months before your baby sleeps through the night.

10 Tips to Help Your Baby Day-Night Sleep Confusion

  1. Feed in the Dark:
    It is normal for your baby to wake up during the night for a feeding or two. The trick is that you want to get your baby to sleep as fast as possible after each night-time feeding. Avoid turning on any bright lights during nighttime feedings. If you need a light, use a soft nursing light or a night light. Keep the room as dark as possible while you feed.
  2. Avoid Eye Contact at Night:
    Keeping night feedings uneventful by avoiding eye contact and interacting with your baby in the middle of the night will let your baby know this isn’t a time to play. Give baby a quick diaper change if needed, feed baby, and then put your baby back to bed. This may feel strange at first because we want to love on our newborn but trust the process. Give your baby lots of attention and eye contact throughout the day. The key here is to keep your baby as sleepy as possible during the night feed so they eat and then go back to sleep easily.
  3. Interact During the Day:
    When your baby is awake during the day, spend quality time interacting with them. This will help your baby to know that daytime is when things happen and nighttime is for sleeping. Talk to your baby, look at him, play with him, read books to him, cuddle him, etc. Interact a ton during the daytime feeds. Giving him more attention during the day versus at night will really help him with day-night confusion.
  4. Morning Fun:
    When your baby wakes up in the morning, make it a BIG DEAL!!! First, go into your baby’s room, and maybe sing a fun good morning song. Open the blinds and let in the sunlight. Change your baby’s diaper and clothes, and start your day off. Your baby will soon start to see the difference between day and night.
  5. Go Outside:
    Natural sunlight is good for adults and babies. Being exposed to natural sunlight can help everyone sleep better. Go for a walk or lay in the sun on a blanket together. Doing this once a day will help you get fresh air and some vitamin D. If you can’t make it outside, open the blinds and turn on the lights in your home so that it is brighter during the day.
  6. Sleep Environment:
    Setting up an optimal sleep environment for your baby to fall asleep is really important. Using things like blackout curtains and sound machines can make your baby’s room feel more peaceful. The temperature of the room is important for your baby’s safety and comfort. Most experts agree that a baby’s room should be between 68 and 72 degrees. Dress your baby in comfortable clothes.
  7. Swaddle at Night:
    Swaddling your baby makes them feel safe and cozy like they did in the womb, and this can help them sleep for longer periods of time. When babies are swaddled it also helps them from startling themselves and causing them to wake up. Use a swaddle for naps and nighttime sleep. Make sure that you unswaddle them during the day to allow them to move around. (Stop swaddling baby around 10 weeks old.)
  8. Frequent Daytime Feedings:
    Feed your baby every 2 to 3 hours during the day and avoid feeding them till they fall asleep, if possible. This will be harder with younger babies, but establishing a good eat-play-sleep schedule will help avoid sleep props.
  9. Avoid Getting Baby Overtired:
    You would think that if you keep babies up longer during the day they will sleep better at night. Unfortunately, this isn’t how it works for babies. Babies need to sleep a lot, especially during the first 6 to 8 weeks. Pay attention to your baby’s wake time and sleepy cues, and put your baby down during his wake window before he gets overtired. Letting baby nap regularly during the day will help baby not get overtired by the time it is bedtime.
  10. Bedtime Routine:
    This is probably the most important tip! Having a solid and consistent nighttime routine is so important. Having a predictable bedtime routine can help calm babies down and get them ready for bedtime easier. The activities you do before bedtime will be cues to your baby that it is time to go to bed. You can give your baby a bath. Do a good nighttime lotion massage. Sing some quiet songs. Read a book. Then do a good long last feeding for the day, and then lay your baby in bed to sleep.

    Newborn baby sleep patterns can be very tricky for the first few months, but staying consistent and setting up a good sleep schedule and routine will help everyone to get a good night’s sleep.

    Don’t hesitate to reach out to an expert for help with your baby’s day-night sleep confusion.

Tips From Your Doula

I do not recommend hiring a sleep trainer/consultant until your baby is at least 4 months old. I highly recommend reading Babywise. It is a great book with tons of great advice. For one-on-one sleep support, you can go to Sleep Services.