September 23, 2015
Help! My newborn baby sleeps all day and won’t sleep at night. I am exhausted. What can I do?
If your new baby seems to have his days and nights mixed up, you are in good company. Newborns are notorious for being sleepy in the day but awake and feeding often at night. If we had a magic solution for this ‘problem’ we could be rich!
Why do newborns wake more often at night?
- New babies don’t understand the difference between night and day. They will need time to learn.
- Background noise in the day may lull baby to sleep. A newborn is used to the sounds of your womb, your heart beating, your bowels gurgling as well as muffled sounds from the outside world. The quiet of night time may feel foreign.
- Newborn tummies are tiny; they need to breastfeed often to feed their growing brain.
- Frequent night waking prevents babies from entering deep sleep. According to respected infant sleep researcher, Dr. James McKenna, this lowers their risk of SIDS.
While it may seem like an eternity, the stage of mixed up days and nights will eventually pass (usually by the time your baby is a month old).
How to to ease your baby into a more adult friendly sleeping pattern:
- Wake baby frequently for feeds during the day.
Newborns breastfeed at least 8 or 10 times in a 24-hour period. Sleeping for long stretches during the day inevitably means more frequent feeding at night. Try waking baby to feed at least every 2 or 3 hours during the day.
- Keep lights on and shades open.
The light patterns that affect adult sleep may also affect babies. Open your curtains during the day; leave the lights on. At night, try to do feeds and diaper changes by the glow of a night-light.
- Interact during the day but be “boring” at night.
Talk, sing, and play with your baby throughout the day. At night, try to be calm, quiet and “boring”. Speak softly, in soothing tones, while you change, feed and burp.
- Start a bedtime routine.
A bedtime routine can help your baby to know it is time for sleep. You could include a bath, a bedtime story, a massage or lullaby music.
- Do not limit daytime noise.
Try not to limit daytime noise. Don’t worry about the doorbell. Leave the television on. Play music. At night, keep noise levels low. “White noise” may be soothing, reminding your baby of the womb. You could try a fan (not blowing on your baby) or quiet radio static.
Some parents try to keep their baby awake during the day in the hope they will sleep at night. This may have the opposite effect as baby may become over stimulated. An over stimulated baby will be fussier throughout the day, as well as the night.
This period of mixed up days and nights won’t last forever. We promise! Every baby is different. Be patient as yours adjusts to life in the outside world.
*Header photo courtesy of Flickr: abardwell.
About the authors:
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.
Download their app NuuNest – Newborn Nurse Answers and Baby Tracking for expert guidance through the first crucial weeks after childbirth.