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Do you think your baby has days and nights mixed up?
Does she often awake at night?
Does she sleep long daytime stretches but wakes often to eat at night?
This is actually a very common occurrence with newborns.
Thankfully, it is also a pretty easy fix!
In this post, I am going to teach you why your baby has days and nights mixed up.
We are also going to discuss why she is sleeping more during the day and staying awake longer at night.
Then… keep reading for 7 great tips to help remedy the situation!
Why Baby Has Days and Nights Mixed Up
Is your baby more sleepy during the day and then wants to eat more at night?
This is often the case within the first few weeks.
The reason for this is that your baby has grown accustomed to your movements during the day. This was her rhythm in the womb.
When you were pregnant, your daytime activities rocked and swayed your baby to sleep.
At night, when you were resting, your baby was more active, and you most likely felt his movements with more vigor.
Your baby was also dependent upon your hormones to regulate his sleep in utero.
Speaking of hormones, your baby is not yet making enough of his own sleep/wake hormones.
It’s not until about 12-15 weeks for a full-term baby, that his body produces enough melatonin, adrenaline and cortisol.
Until this time, your baby’s circadian rhythm (internal body clock) is not fully developed.
This means you cannot expect your baby to really know the difference between day and night before this point.
He truly does have his days and nights mixed up!
What can we do about it?
We need to help him.
7 Tips to Help When Baby has Days and Nights Mixed Up!
1. Day-Night Confusion? Limit Night Stimulus
When baby has days and nights mixed up, start by creating a quiet, dark and calm evening routine.
What do I mean by that?
Many new parents make the mistake of allowing too much noise and stimulation in the evening.
Turn down (or off) the TV, darken the lights and help your baby to understand that night is a time to wind down and sleep.
Some babies are extremely sensitive to being overstimulated (light, noise, etc) and most babies will respond well to a quiet, dark and calm atmosphere.
A great way to do this is to use red light.
Consider a red night light to help you and your baby fall back to sleep faster.
This little bear night light is perfect for night feedings and diaper changes. (But… get the red one!)
Why? Because new research is showing that red light does not affect melatonin. This helps baby to enter into a more drowsy state and stay there during the evening and overnight hours.
Pro-Tip: Try a Sound Machine!
Using a sound machine at night is also a great way to help muffle some of the noises of your home.
But, it also helps when babies are overtired or overstimulated and need to calm down.
If you use a sound machine as part of your sleep routine, that will help your baby make a sleep association and fall to sleep faster at night, too.
In addition, a sound machine mimics the noises that your baby heard before birth, so it is relaxing and familiar to him.
I especially like this sound machine because it’s small, portable and is just as powerful as the larger, more expensive models!
While we are talking about night and stimulation, it’s very important to keep the night wakings and feedings very boring!
What do I mean by that? Try not to engage with baby. Avoid eye contact and keep things dark, quiet and non-stimulating.
Stay off your phones, too! The blue light is not helpful for you or your baby’s night sleep!
2. When Baby has Days and Nights Mixed Up: Feed Often During the Day and Evening!
Think: More daytime feedings = less night time wakings!
Your newborn should eat every 2-3 hours during the day. The more he eats during the day and evening hours, the less night wakings you will begin to see.
Does this mean you should wake your newborn to eat during the day? Absolutely!
NEVER allow a newborn baby to go more than 3 hours between daytime feedings.
Why? Because allowing a baby to go longer than three hours without a feeding (during the day) can sabotage night time sleep!
Let me explain. Your baby’s body needs a certain volume of milk within a 24-hour period.
If he does not get that amount during the day, guess what? Yup! He’ll need to eat more at night!
In addition, if you want your baby to begin sleeping longer stretches at night, you absolutely MUST make sure that he gets adequate volumes during the day.
A Word About “Cluster Feeding”
You will most likely notice, too, that your baby will want to eat often during the evening hours. We call this “cluster-feeding”. It is very normal and good.
Cluster feeding allows your baby to “tank up” and get ready for longer night sleep.
It also signals your body to ramp up milk production during growth spurts.
Bottle-fed babies will also want to eat extra during the evening hours.
Sit back, watch a quiet movie (in a darkened room) and encourage this cluster feeding and you will eventually see night sleep improve!
For some great tips on how to survive newborn cluster-feeding, read this post!
Cluster-feeding is often “fussy feeding”
Since it is common for babies to be fussy during cluster-feeding, breastfeeding mothers often worry that they are not able to produce enough milk for their breastfed babies and are tempted to supplement.
Don’t give in to these temptations unless you have spoken first to a lactation professional or your doctor has serious concerns about your baby’s weight gain.
A fussy baby who cluster feeds continuously in the evening is very normal!
The marathon feeding sessions are necessary to signal your body to ramp up milk production and supplementing will only interfere with this natural process.
Keep in mind that even bottle-fed babies cluster-feed and have periods of fussiness in the evenings!
3. When Baby has Days and Nights Mixed Up: Skip Daytime Swaddling
If your baby is particularly sleepy during the day, skip the daytime swaddling and make sure that you use a swaddle at night!
A baby that has his days and nights mixed up, may wake more often without the swaddle.
If you haven’t discovered the “magical powers” of the swaddle yet, read this post.
Many parents who say that their babies don’t like the swaddle, are often not swaddling correctly!
Related: Overtired Baby or Colic?
4. Keep Your Baby in the Light (and activity) of Day
When baby has days and nights mixed up, it also helps to keep him in a well-lit room during the day (in the middle of daily activities) to encourage frequent wakings and feedings.
The extra noise of daily living is often enough to rouse your baby from a light sleep state.
This does NOT mean that you need to KEEP your baby awake during the day!
Keep in mind that you do NOT need to try and KEEP your baby awake during the day.
As long as she has a good, full feeding every 2-3 hours, she can sleep until her heart’s content!
Don’t believe the myth that keeping your baby awake during the day will help her sleep longer at night.
In fact, this will just backfire instead and you may end up with a very overtired, overstimulated baby who WON’T sleep!
Learn more about overtired or overstimulated babies (and how to avoid this) in this post.
5. Understand Your Baby’s Need to Transition
It helps to see the fourth trimester as a time to help your baby to transition from “womb to world.”
It’s a huge transition for babies to make!
Life outside the womb is very different and unfamiliar to your baby. All she knows is you, so don’t be surprised that she only wants to be held during this season!
Your body is your baby’s natural habitat, so don’t deprive her of lots of snuggle-time for fear of “spoiling” her.
Many parents say, “I don’t want my baby to get used to being held or rocked to sleep.” Well…. I’ve got news for you… your baby is already used to that!
The newborn season is a time to help him make the transition from your body, but it takes time.
6. Begin Establishing a Bedtime Routine
Even though your baby is just a newborn, it’s NOT too early to begin a bedtime routine!
In fact, the sooner you begin a bedtime or sleep routine, the faster your baby will begin to form “sleep associations.”
Sleep associations are actions or activities that help your baby to fall asleep.
A baby learns early on that certain things mean sleep.
This helps their body begin to make melatonin.
Try adopting actions to help your baby make those associations.
For example, consider using these common bedtime activities that many parents use with their babies:
A bedtime routine does NOT need to be a long, drawn-out ritual. In fact, it’s better to keep it short and sweet.
If you start a long bedtime routine, it may become a burden when your infant becomes dependent on that as he gets older.
For example, would you want your baby to ONLY fall asleep after a bath, 5 stories, and 30 minutes of rocking? Probably not.
That’s not to say that these activities are not good and nurturing, but consider a routine that is sustainable over the long haul and easily reproducible with a babysitter.
You may want to consider a different time of day for bathing and stories!
7. Prioritize Your Own Sleep!
When baby has days and nights mixed up, it can be exhausting for new mothers!
What are you doing to take care of yourself?
It’s very important to cut yourself slack during this time and make YOUR sleep a priority.
You can best do this by adjusting your expectations, napping during the day and letting things go.
It’s hard to do, but necessary for your own health and well-being!
If you have a newborn, then YOU have most likely just given birth, right?
This means that YOU still need to recover!
Keep in mind that it takes a full 6-8 weeks for your body to recover from childbirth.
Your uterus still needs to heal and you are probably still bleeding.
If you don’t get proper rest, you increase your risk for postpartum complications such as mastitis, postpartum hemorrhage and postpartum depression or anxiety.
Read more about the importance of rest and recovery during the 4th trimester in this post.
A Word about “Sleeping Through the Night”
It is also important to realize that newborns need to wake often to eat, even during the night.
They are hard-wired to do so. It is unrealistic to expect a newborn (0-2 months old) to “sleep through the night”.
It can happen, but it is uncommon. It’s unfortunate that there is so much misinformation about this.
If you have a newborn that sleeps long night-time stretches, consider yourself lucky! (and make sure that your doctor has no concerns about his weight gain either!)
Because your baby needs time to make the transition from “womb to world”, it can be very challenging for new parents to get good sleep during this season, but it IS possible!
I have some great ideas to help new parents get better sleep. Read my post here.
More Baby Sleep Help!
If your baby has days and nights mixed up, that is usually the first newborn sleep problem to tackle.
Once your baby gets older, most parents begin to notice other sleep issues.
But I have some great tips for helping your baby sleep better.
When your baby is sleeping better, so are you!
Speaking of Sleep…
Are you having trouble getting enough sleep with your newborn?
When your baby has days and nights mixed up, that’s really tough.
In fact, most things about having a newborn is hard! And getting good postpartum sleep is very challenging too!
The greatest challenge for most new parents is sleep deprivation.
30 Easy Sleep Tips for New Parents!
How can you get more sleep with your newborn?
It is possible!
As an overnight postpartum doula, I have helped hundreds of new parents get better sleep during the postpartum weeks.
Guess what? The answer is NOT teaching your baby to sleep through the night!
What is the answer?
I teach new parents sleep strategies!
I have decided to gather up all my tips and strategies into an eBook.
This is NOT your average book on baby sleep, but an easy step-by-step, hands-on survival guide for new parents!
I teach new parents how to maximize their sleep during the postpartum period.
I have compiled all my favorite doula tips into a very practical and useful book on sleep for new parents.
It’s called 30 Sleep Hacks for New Parents: A Sleep Survival Guide for Parents of Newborns.
This quick read is a very affordable eBook that will be a game changer for your family!
Have You Heard About Sleep Cues?
If your baby has days and nights mixed up, begin by using the tips in this post to solve that problem first!
After the first couple weeks, though, your baby will start having more daytime wake time, and that’s good.
However, it then becomes really important for parents to learn their baby’s sleep cues and wake windows!
Why is this important?
Because many parents make the mistake of allowing their babies to be awake too long during the day.
While this may not seem like a big deal at first, it can quickly escalate into a very overtired, overstimulated baby!
In fact, many so-called, “colicky babies” are actually in this overtired state. Not fun!
Learn more about how to watch your baby’s sleep cues and prevent an overtired baby in this post.
For other new parent sleep help, find out if you are making these 10 most common new parent sleep mistakes.
Recognizing sleep cues and avoiding these common sleep mistakes can make a huge difference in how your baby sleeps or doesn’t sleep!
Have you had a baby with days and nights mixed up? What helped?
Your baby has days and nights mixed up?
Or have you ever had this problem with your newborn?
I’d love to hear how you dealt with this situation and tips you are willing to share with new moms who could use your helpful ideas!
Have you tried any of the ideas in this post?
I’d love to hear from you!
Thanks so much!