3 must knows to fix newborn day night confusion
"How do I ensure my newborn learns the difference between night and day once they are born? My first was a nightmare sleeper, so I want to avoid making the same mistakes again."
Ok newborns - tricky little creatures that they are!
They are born with a very immature circadian rythym. They don't really know day from night, and might even be born with sleeping patterns where they sleep a lot in the day, and then are very wakeful at night.
There are a few things you can do to quickly reverse this.
3 cues exist which help "entrain" our biological clocks.
- Social interactions
If we increase these in the day, and decrease these at night, then your baby will quickly learn the difference between day and night, you will be supporting their circadian rythym, not confusing it.
But hang on... before you panic that I want you to refuse all night feeds, and never turn the light on or make eye contact... lets gain some perspective here.
Your newborn will still need night feeds, they have small tummies and need to grow a lot.
Until your newborn is 4kg, it is normal to be advised to feed 3 hourly at night.
Once they hit 4kg, lots of midwives and nurses will say you can let them sleep, or aim for more like 4 hourly night feeds, which is essentially 2 feeds a night.
So we aren't eliminating all feeds, and we aren't restricting feeds, we are simply working on sleep in between feeds.
Light: You'll likely need a night light when you're feeding and changing your baby. This is 100% fine! Try the Glow Dreaming unit if you want a red light to encourage melatonin production. Ultimately just try to avoid having the main over head light on.
Social interactions: Ok some people take this to the extreme and say avoid all eye contact while feeding and changing. Hey I'm a mum too, I've had 3 newborns myself and I found this impossible to do! I just ensured that night feeds were quiet and not big play sessions. But I could not avoid eye contact, especially once they learn to smile! Those beaming eyes smiling at you at 2am are worth all the sleepless nights right!!!
Conversely in the day, you have "play time" after feeds, the sun is out, mum is chatty and you have guests. Lots of social interaction compared to nights. Plus lots of sun compared to night time! You don't have to nap your newborn in the sun after about 3 weeks, they'll actually nap better in a dim room. The sunlight during their awake time is enough to continue en-training their wee biological clock.
Food: Lots of feeding in the day! If your newborn wants a feed, feed them! If they try to sleep past a feed, wake them up for a feed. Skipped day feeds, will usually result in more night feeds, and more night wake ups. A good rule of thumb is 3 hourly day feeds, that is from start of feed to start of feed. So if your newborn tries to sleep past this, give them a few minutes, but start to think about waking them up.