Understand Why Your Baby Stays Awake All Night but Sleeps in The Day
Your 4-week-old’s beautiful eyes are wide open, and they’re staring up at you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It’s incredible gazing at your child, soaking up every tiny detail. Then, a wave of exhaustion hits and you remember… It’s 2 am. You suddenly feel like crying — and wish you both were sleeping, but your baby has been awake through the night.
“How can I get my newborn to sleep at night?” is a top question I get from weary parents. It seems like your newborn’s up all night and asleep all day, right? You’re starting to look for solutions because you don’t know how many more restless nights you can take.
As a new parent, everyone wants to give their advice. As The Sleep Lady, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help you and baby sleep better. Let’s talk about my biggest tips to promote a good newborn sleep schedule — from gentle, evidence-based solutions that work!
I explain how your baby’s sleep schedule starts without any organization, simple ways you can help create structure, and how to make a lasting difference early on. You can promote the best sleep for them now while setting them up for the future.
Newborns Have Unorganized Sleep Schedules & Unique Sleep Needs
Even though you’re warned about being sleep deprived, and the end of pregnancy gives you a taste… Until your baby’s here and you’re losing precious hours of sleep every night, it’s hard to imagine. I like to set realistic expectations, so please know: it’s completely normal to feel exhausted — because your newborn’s likely sleeping in short spurts around the clock. That’s why you’re so tired. It’s hard to get into your own sleep rhythm when your baby’s waking up every couple of hours.
Babies don’t fall asleep or wake up at predictable times, especially in the first 2 months. Understanding that helps ease your mind that one, you aren’t doing anything wrong, and two, it doesn’t last forever! You can help your newborn create a better nighttime sleep schedule and bring organization to what feels like chaos.
So, how much do newborns sleep?
Most full-term babies sleep between 14-17 hours out of 24. But an important study in infant sleep research found that sleep needs vary by 8 or 9 hours in a 24 period!
Let this evidence demonstrate the unique and individual needs of every infant. Don’t fall into the rabbit hole of comparing your child’s sleep habits to your best friend’s or cousin’s baby. Remember the point: sleep needs vary by child and you can only control so much.
You’ll get to know your baby more with each passing day. Read on for 3 practical tips to support a healthy sleep schedule as they grow.
Your Newborn Hasn’t Developed a Circadian Rhythm Yet!
It feels like your baby was born with their days and nights mixed up. In the afternoon, when you’ve had more coffee and are ready for them to be awake, they sleep. You’re too tired to fight it, and try to sneak a nap in yourself. (But you also have the feeling that you should do something productive. Go easy on yourself, mama.)
Your baby sleeps a lot during the day because they lack the internal clock we have as adults. Our circadian rhythm controls when certain hormones release to let us know it’s time to start waking up or winding down. Your baby doesn’t have this yet.
If you’re thinking, “oh great,” don’t worry. I offer gentle tools and evidence-based advice to support your growing baby during the first two months in my new book. Small routines add up to big success with a newborn. Let me show you what to add to your routine — so you feel more confident and capable of helping your baby.
These first few months you need to be gentle with yourself too. Parenting is hard work! Your baby will develop their own circadian rhythm and you’ll get back to yours too, hang in there!
Let’s dive into what you can start doing today to help your newborn sleep better. (And get more rest yourself!)
Improve Your Newborn’s Sleep Schedule With These 3 Daily Actions
Now let’s go over 3 practical tips to get your newborn to use the nighttime for sleeping. It’s truly small daily activities that build habits and create cues for your baby.
- One of my biggest recommendations? Feed your baby often throughout the day. We usually don’t recommend letting them sleep through a feeding (longer than 3 hours during the day). While it can seem mean to wake up a sleeping newborn, making sure they’re fed well promotes longer sleep stretches at night (when they’re developmentally ready). This also begins to build the routine that the daytime is for being awake and nighttime for sleep.While it can be tempting to let your baby sleep a long stretch during the day, because let’s be real — you need a nap too, fight the urge because your baby needs frequent feedings (as you know). Those missed feedings will need to be made up and it’ll be during the night, so try with all your might!
- If you can get outside during the day for some natural light and vitamin D. It massively helps develop your baby’s internal clock.
If you live in a state with unpredictable weather or a very cold winter, consider investing in a small solar lamp. When you’re inside, make sure to open the blinds and turn the lights on to signal it’s “awake” time.Babies thrive off routine and incorporating this part into your daily routine only supports a natural awakening and sleeping schedule.
After 3 pm, make every effort to maintain a calm environment for the remainder of the evening! Surprisingly, many babies get overstimulated, especially if you’re keeping them awake and feeding most of the day. That’s when you’ll notice a very unhappy and fussy baby.
- Dim lights, less noise, and no tv are simple ways to keep things nice and easy for your little one in the evening. It limits the constant stimulation you’re likely used to — but feels overwhelming for your baby’s tiny nervous system.Simple routines and daily activities signal to your baby it’s time for na-night! (That’s what we mean by “cues.”) While their internal clock develops, support your newborn’s sleep schedule with these small and effective routines.
The Sleep Lady’s Gentle Newborn Sleep Guide’s Available for Pre-Order Now
My first book, Goodnight, Sleep Tight, gave parents like you a new way to put your baby to sleep — without them crying it out. It helped countless babies over 6 months of age. But a newborn has far different sleeping struggles.
My sleep team and exhausted parents needed specific solutions for newborns. I listened and created The Sleep Lady’s Gentle Newborn Sleep Guide! My new book, available March 2023, gives you tools to create amazing sleep habits thru my Baby-Led Sleep Shaping and Coaching approach.
Getting sleep with a baby doesn’t have to be rigid or a horrifying experience. Lean into these small routines to create lasting positive sleep habits and get your newborn on a restful sleep schedule.
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SOURCES: Mindell, J., Carskadon, M., Chervin, R., & Meltzer, L. (2004). Summary of findings: 2004 Sleep in America poll. National Science Foundation.