Day/Night Confusion

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Day and Night Confusion

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 babies have some day/night confusion when they first enter the world. If you follow Babywise or Baby Whisperer principles of Eat/Play/Sleep, you are less likely to have it, or will have it a shorter time or less intensely. There are some strategies you can apply if your baby wants to be awake in the night more than in the day.

Regular Feedings In 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 baby is hungry). Work to keep baby awake for feedings so she gets full meals all day long.

Start Day at Consistent Time

Start your first feeding of the day at a consistent time. For more on this, see:

Consistent Schedule: Start Your Day Right

and

What Time Should I Start My Day

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 often times 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. For more on this, see:

Waketime Length for Newborns

and

Newborns and Waketime: A Slow Process

Keep Blinds Open in Day

If your baby will nap with the blinds open, leave them open for naps in the day. Three of my four children have napped great with blinds open as babies. McKenna wouldn’t even as a newborn. If your baby will sleep, keep the blinds open to help baby’s body know when day is happening and when night is happening.

No Playing in Night

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

Change Diaper Mid-Feeding at Night

I change the diaper mid-feeding in the night. Not all people change the diaper at all at night feedings, but I don’t want a wet diaper waking my baby. So I feed between sides so the baby won’t be fully awake when I put her back in her bed. For more about diapers at night, see:

Diapers At Night

Expose to Noon Sun

You can try taking your baby out for a few minutes at noon each day. 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. For more on this, see:

Regulatory Sleep Systems

Turn the Lights Up

This is going against everything I just said. The tips above are all good and are from sleep experts. However, sometimes doing all of those things doesn’t solve the problem. They will say “give it time,” 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. 

Kaitlyn 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. After a night or two of this, I had an idea. Instead of keeping the lights dim and sleep-friendly, 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 used to bright light, so having it be nice and dark 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.

Reader Input

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