Fix Your Baby’s Day/Night Confusion

Is your newborn baby wide awake at nighttime? Learn how to get your baby sleeping and tell day from night.

Newborn baby dressed in white sleeping

Do you feel like your baby has days and nights mixed up?

It is frustrating when your baby sleeps like a champ all day but wants to be up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the middle of the night.

Many newborn babies have some day/night confusion when they first enter the world.

Day/night confusion is when baby wants to be awake at night and sleep the day away. The internal clock is not set yet and needs some help getting there.

If you follow Babywise or Baby Whisperer principles of Eat/Play/Sleep, you are less likely to have day/night confusion or will have it a shorter time or less intensely.

Shorter does not mean non-existent, so you need some help!

There are some strategies you can apply if your baby wants to be awake in the night more than in the day. Here are some tips for how to fix day/night confusion.

Start Your Day at Consistent Time

I know, I know. You want to sleep in and just wake up when your baby wakes up. But if you want your baby to sleep more at night, you need to start your day at a consistent time as much as possible.

Start your first feeding of the day at a consistent time each day. Keep this in a 30 minute window, so if your ideal time is 7:00 AM, that can fluctuate from 6:45-7:15 OR 7:00-7:30, etc.

The more consistent you are, the sooner your baby will get on a solid routine.

For more on this, see:

How to Have a Consistent Schedule: Start Your Day At the Same Time


What Time To Start Baby’s Day

Follow an Eat/Wake/Sleep Cycle All Day

The eat, play, sleep routine really helps teach baby what is daytime and get baby sleepy at night sooner.

Have Regular Feedings In the Day

Waking baby up regularly at 3 hour intervals in the daytime will help with day/night confusion.

Be sure to stick to your 2.5-3 hour routine in the day as closely as possible (always feeding baby sooner if the baby is hungry).

Work to keep baby awake for feedings so she gets full meals all day long.

When you focus on “eat”, you are working to get a full feeding. You are making sure baby gets enough calories in the day to not need them at night instead.

Have Waketime

You don’t want your baby sleeping so much during the day that she isn’t tired enough at night.

However, with a brand newborn, remember that oftentimes just being awake for a feeding and diaper change is all the awake time she can handle.

Remember waketime as a newborn is typically anywhere from 30-60 minutes and that includes feeding time. For more on this, see Optimal Waketime Lengths.

When you have “wake” as part of each cycle, you are interacting with baby and making sure your baby spends time awake each day. Babies can’t sleep 24 hours solid, and if you allow solid sleep all day long, that “wake” will come in the night.

>>>Read: Adding Waketime to Your Newborn’s Day

Have Regular Naps

Then you have your sleep part of your day. You can’t have baby sleep ALL day, but baby does need to get enough sleep to not get over stimulated.

Sleep begets sleep, and if baby doesn’t get enough sleep in the day, you will have a fussy, overtired baby in the night.

Ideally, you want naps to last 1.5-2.5 hour for a newborn.

You might find you need to wake your baby up from naps when that time is up. You don’t want to allow for 4 hour daytime naps. You want 4 hour stretches of sleep at night, instead.

>>>Read: Why an Eat/Wake/Sleep Cycle Works to Get Baby Sleeping

Keep Blinds Open in the Day

If your baby will nap with the blinds open, leave them open for naps in the day.

Three of my four children napped great with blinds open as babies. McKenna wouldn’t even as a super sleepy newborn.

If your baby will sleep, keep the blinds open to help baby’s body know when the day is happening and when the night is happening.

If you have a baby like McKenna who will not nap well with blinds open, close the blinds! There are other ways to fix day/night confusion.

Open blinds will help, but it isn’t the only thing. Naps are more important than blinds.

Keep Night Feeding Dark

When you go in to feed baby at night, keep the room dark.

In our baby nursery, we installed a dimmer on the light switch so I could put the light as low as possible. This was even less light than a lamp was.

If you do not have a dimmer and cannot install one, use very low watt light bulbs in a lamp or use a night light that you plug in just when you go in for the night feed.

Some sound machines have lights you can turn on, also.

We are showing baby a big contrast here. The daytime is bright and night is dark. There is a difference between daytime and nighttime.

Keep Night Feedings Boring

We also show that difference with our socializing. We talk and have fun in the day, but nights are boring.

When you feed baby at night, keep things dark and calm. Whisper if you need to talk. Keep lights dim. 

Do not let the night feedings become a social hour!

Do all of the socializing, talking, and playing during your wake time in the day. Make it clear night is not a time for fun.

Something to consider along with this idea is what you are dressing baby in for night sleep. What pajamas will allow you to do diaper changes quickly to minimize the social time AND minimize how much you wake baby up.

How to fix day/night confusion graphic with list of what to do

Change Baby’s Diaper Mid-Feeding at Night

I changed the diaper mid-feeding in the night.

Not all people change the diaper at all at night feedings, but I didn’t want a wet diaper waking my baby.

So I feed between sides so the baby would not be fully awake when I put her back in her bed.

For older babies, you can change the diaper before the feeding even starts, but anyone who has fed a newborn knows that most newborns dirty the diaper during the feeding, so waiting until mid-feeding allowed baby to get it dirty before I changed it (rather than after).

I also did not prefer to change at the end of the feeding if I could avoid it because diaper changes tend to wake babies up. I wanted baby drowsy by the end of our night feeding.

>>>Read: How To Diaper Baby at Night for Optimal Sleep

Keep Baby Swaddled at Night for Feeds

With a newborn, it can be very hard to keep them awake for feedings.

With my newborns, I would do my night feed with the first half of the feeding unswaddled because it helped baby stay awake.

After the diaper change, I swaddled to finish the feeding if the baby would stay awake for it.

If your baby will not stay awake to finish the feeding, you will want to keep your little one unswaddled.

Expose to Noon Sun

You can try taking your baby out for a few minutes at noon each day to help set the circadian rhythm.

This can work with people of all ages; exposure to the sun at noon can help your circadian rhythm get on track so your body knows what time is day and what time is night.

Of course, you need to use common sense here. If it is the middle of July, you might not want to stand in direct sunlight with a newborn. Try standing in the shade instead.

You want the body exposed to natural light, but do not burn skin!

>>>Read: Sleep Facts to Understand for Successful Baby Sleep

Turn the Lights Up

This is going against everything I just said above. I know.

The tips above are all good and tend to work for most babies.

However, sometimes doing all of those things doesn’t solve the problem of baby having days and nights mixed up.

People will say “Give it time. Baby will get it in a couple of weeks” but when you are in the moment and it is 12 AM and your cutie just wants to look around, you don’t want to wait a couple of weeks.

You want to sleep tonight. You want to sleep tomorrow night.

Kaitlyn, my second child, was a sleepy, sleepy newborn. She was very hard to keep awake for feedings all day long.

After her late evening feeding, however, she was suddenly wide awake and not ready to go right back to sleep.

I was exhausted. I had a newborn and a 22 month old. I needed patience in the day to deal with a toddler, and patience is hard when you are sleep-deprived.

After a night or two of this, I had an idea.

Instead of keeping the lights dim and sleep-friendly in the night, I turned them on as bright as can be.

She ate and went right back to sleep.

I figured she wanted to stay up because her eyes were not yet used to bright light, so having it be nice and dark at night with low lights was perfect for her to check out the world around her.

For a couple of days, I tried to keep her in lower lighting during the day and kept the lights bright for her late evening feeding at night.

After a couple of days, her body was adjusted to being awake in the day and not the night.

With McKenna, I tried the same trick and it worked again.

Brinley never did have the issue of being more awake at night and less awake in the day. This led me to wonder if it was the timing of her birth. Kaitlyn and McKenna were both born late in the day–the 8 PM and 9 PM hours. Brinley was born in the 4 PM hour.

I don’t know if it is just coincidence or if there is something to it.

If your baby will not sleep at night after following conventional advice, try my unconventional trick.


Your baby will need to continue to wake in the night for feedings, but with these tips, those feedings can be just feedings and not social events.

You can go in, feed baby, and you both go right back to sleep.

Your newborn might start out confused about day and night, but really in a few short nights, you can have things worked out. It will not last months. It will really be a short period of time.

Related Posts

This post originally appeared on this blog September 2012

How to fix newborn day/night confusion with a picture of a newborn baby

18 thoughts on “Fix Your Baby’s Day/Night Confusion”

  1. I think you're on to something with the time of birth. My son was born at 10:00 pm and stayed awake, of course, for several hours, but fell asleep and stayed asleep until about 10:00 the next morning. We've never had a problem with day/night confusion and I believe it's because he got started at the best time.

  2. You need a fan page. I can't find one, so I'm posting here. THANK YOU. That's all I have to say. Thank you.Sarah (mom of 4 month-old twins Hank & Annie)

  3. My daughter is 12 days old and was doing great with sleeping at night with two 4 hour stretches up until a few days ago. I cluster feed in the evening and do a dream feed. Suddenly she is waking at 2:30 a. m. and then is awake until 5 when I give in and nurse her again just to get her to fall asleep. During the day she is on a 2.5 and 3 hour combination schedule. There are a couple of wake times in the middle of the day that I can not get her to have hardly any wake time. I can usually get her to nurse and that is it. I know that is normal for newborns, but it seems like she is getting all her nighttime sleep in during that time. I go outside with her a few times a day just so she can see it is daytime. I really don't know what to do…when she is wide awake at 2:30 how do I handle that? I have tried the 4'S but her eyes just pop open and won't close until I nurse her again. Any suggestions are most welcome!!!

  4. SM it could be a "needs time" thing, but I would try out turning the lights on fully in the night to see if that helps her just go back to sleep. Also, try to get more wakefulness in the middle of the day–though I do know how hard that can be 🙂

  5. My baby girl is 1 week old. I just started babywise yesterday. She has been sleeping really well for all her naps so far. She barley cries at all. I have a question about the late night feedings. I am a really light sleeper and she sleeps in a bassinet next to our bed and I can hear every noise she makes. Sometimes after 3 hours I can hear her sucking and making noises like she is hungry. Should I feed her or wait for her to actually start crying? If she was in a separate room I wouldn't even know she was doing that unless she cried. When should I put her in a different room? I know with my son when I put him in his own room I slept a lot better.

  6. Hi,My daughter is 3 months old and, since she was born, has not been willing to go to sleep before midnight (sometimes not until 2 or 3am!). She is on a 3 hour feeding schedule (following the sleep, eat, awake-time routine) and will take 1.5-2 hour naps throughout the day. We have done CIO with her and she is able to fall asleep on her own after 2-3 minutes of fussing/crying. Our day typically is as follows:8: first feeding & awake time, 9-11: nap11: second feeding & awake time, 12-2: nap2: third feeding & awake time, 3-5: nap5: fourth feeding & awake time, 6-8: nap (have tried skipping this nap but she gets so tired after an hour of being awake)8: fifth feeding & awake time, 9: “bedtime”11: last feeding and straight back to bedAfter this last feeding, she will sometimes fall asleep for up to 40 minutes but then will wake up and cry/sleep on and off until sometime after midnight when she finally will fall asleep and stay asleep until 8 when I wake her for her first feeding. I check on her every 15 minutes and sometimes she will take a 7th feeding, but sometimes not. I’ve tried adjusting the time of our first feeding and keeping her up longer during the day along with the above advice, but nothing seems to dramatically affect her bedtime. I would love to be able to get her to go to sleep earlier than midnight (and to go to sleep myself!) as I know she is tired and trying to catch up on sleep throughout the day (I have to wake her up at 8am and from every nap during the day).Any advice or thoughts would be appreciated! Thanks so much.

  7. My 4 week old son was born at 11am and is always wide awake (and FUSSY) overnight, so I'm not sure its a time of birth thing. He was, however, very active in the womb at the time he is always up over night now (after the 10pm feeding), so I think its just a cycle his body always went through while he was growing and developing before he was born! I will give the lights on thing a try for a few nights and see if that helps!

  8. Two questions I have though… if turning bright lights on during the feeding works to help your baby get back to sleep after the feeding… do you keep doing it every night after. Or once they are going back to sleep after the feeding, do you return to using low lighting and a quiet environment for the feeding. Also, if you have a sleepy nurser, do you could the feeding time as a part of their wake time… even if they seem like they are sleeping during that time? Or do you start the wake time once the feeding is over and they actually become more alert!? Please let me know! I feel like I'm actually having a tougher time with my second little one than I did with my first! 🙁

    • At some point, you need to get the lights back low. Not too long. Waketime should count with feeding even with a sleepy nurser, but if your baby is sleeping through the feeding, it will definitely cause napping issues. I have a post on that with the words "keep baby awake!" In the title if you want to read more.

  9. Hi, thanks for keeping up this fantastic blog! Our 7 week old baby had night day confusion from early on. She would fuss in 3 hourly blocks any time of the night e.g 4am -7am. The last few days it has gotten worse, starting at 9 pm all the way to 9am the next morning, getting snatches of sleep in between only. Does turning on the lights work for a 7 week old who is already used to bright light in the day? Also, this goes against all the other advice we've been reading: keep nights dark and day bright. What do we do with her when she cries at night? She can go on for hours! We are ok with CIO but it doesn't seem to help. Also, when we do PUPD or shh pat, she calms down for awhile and starts again. As the night deteriorates,we carry her to deep sleep only to have her wake at the next transition, then it goes on… We start the day at 9am and it's such a vicious cycle as she simply can't wake in the day though we've tried everything- even bathing her. She gets very angry and then sleeps.Thank you for your help in advance! My hubby is getting chest pains from the sleep deprivation hearing her cry from the other room.

  10. I don't know if it would work at that age, but it sounds like it wouldn't hurt to try it one night. My guess is she is too old for this trick, though. Does she have reflux? So she is sleeping well in the day, just not night? If that is the case, really analyze what is different with th day versus the night and try to get the night more like her days.

  11. Thanks for your response! Yes she was probably too old for the trick but she came out of the night day confusion after week 8 gradually. And you're right, at about that time, she was diagnosed with silent reflux as she screamed at her feeds. She is formula fed. She is now 12 weeks, on omniperozole and motilum. With meds, she has been doing ok in the day, with a long morning nap(about 2 hrs 20 min), two 1.5 hour naps then one half hour nap (she wakes herself from this nap only) before bath and bedtime feed. She has a dream feed at 1.30am as we wanted to keep her from being overly hungry and space out the night feed in case gastric juices built up over the night. She settles ok for naps but not well for bedtime and she wakes at the transition after falling asleep for the night (20min – 60 min) then cries for the next 1-2.5 hours. For the past 2 nights we resorted to feeding her 30 ml which seemed to help her settle a bit. We don't want to create a habit of feeding her shortly after bedtime though. We would also prefer to keep the 1.30am feed, and a feed at 10-11pm could put her off 1.30pm and have her wake for a feed 3-4am and affect 7am feed even more. Could she be undertired as she looks v awake during the crying stretch? This is her current schedule, would very much appreciate your thoughts!7-715: Morning feed (does not feed well as she feeds much better when she is half asleep)8.40: nap11: Feed (i wake her from all naps as its easier to feed. If awake she can struggle for an hour to get half a feed in. could be reflux effects…)12.30: nap2.10: Feed3.40: nap5.15: Feed7-7.30: catnap8.20: Bedtime feed(Takes long as she is awake and a lot of the time struggling with feed. Upright for 20 min after she finishes)9 onwards, 20 min from when she finishes: BedtimeThen after about 1/2 hour-1 hour sleep cycle, the crying begins and she can't settle. At all other times, she is able to settle herself. Thanks Val!

  12. Hi I know this is 2016, years later after the initial post but every time I have a baby I am on here looking at every thing I can find!! Thank you for what you have done for the rest of us!!Now my newborn had the same issue when we first came from the hospital( my third Babywise baby) he just wasn't willing to go in the bassinet for the first few nights and needed to be nursed and when he would fall asleep I would try putting him in his bassinet and he just wouldnt have it! So ( it must have been God!! Because I just didn't know what to do! My other Babywise babies would sleep in their bassinets when they came home from the hospital) so I felt it was a temperature issue. I put a fuzzy blanket as his sheet and used a heated rice bag in his bassinet before I put him in it to warm it up before every night feed. This worked!! He agreed to go into it! And he slept for an hour and half between feeds at night instead of sleeping on my warm body. Also if he still did cry sometimes when I put him down I put a pacifier in his mouth just until he fell asleep and then once I saw in the video monitor that he was asleep I went and slowly pulled it out because i didn't want to create a pacifier habit ( my other two never needed pacifiers) so this got us through the first couple of nights by the fifth night he is was willing to go into his bassinet which was warmed but no extra heating needed every time and no pacifier, waking up once around 1 am and the othe around 4 am for feeds! I also was very strict about DWT bing 7:00 or 7:30 am and followed the 2 and 1/2 or 3 hour schedule in the day and kept him awake making sure he got a full feed! So I hope this helps someone! It was deliverance for me!! Heat the bed and use pacifier if you need for a while, in a few days of applying Babywise daytime principles it will switch over!!

  13. I have a 4 week old who eats and sleeps well during the day, and quiet sleeping too, but at night he shortens his cycles from 3 hours to 2-2.5. He would sleep longer during the day too if I let him. At night he will go back to sleep but is restless and acts like he is bothered by gas. Sometimes he does this during the day too, but worse at night. He does not spit up at all. How do I lengthen his night time cycles and not his daytime ones? We keep him in the pack n play during the day for his naps and his crib at night. I have tried cluster feedings in the evening and a dream feeding and it doesn't seem to make a difference. Thanks for any help!

  14. My son is 10 1/2 weeks (1 week early). He had always been the best sleeper until about a week ago. He just stopped napping. Could not get him to go down and if he did go down it was for 20-30 minutes. I played around with his wake time and tried to play and then do something less stimulating before he went down and nothing worked. We did however have nighttime figured it out. He still woke to eat but he was quick to put down. Finally I tried him napping in a dark room and it instantly worked! However the two days we’ve done that are the two nights that we now struggle putting him down. Did I cause day and night confusion?

    His schedule is up at 7:30 and feed. Nap 8:30-10:30. Eat and then nap 11:30-1. Eat and then nap 2-4. Eat and then nap 5-6. Eat and then down at 8 eating again before down. Dreamfeed at 10:30 and night feed at 4 am.


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