How to Establish Day and Night For a Newborn

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It’s easy for adults to establish the difference between day and night because the sun and moon give us the answers. However, for infants, it’s not so easy because they haven’t yet registered what day and night are, let alone what a sun and moon are. So, how can we teach newborns how to establish the difference between day and night?

To establish healthy night and day patterns for a newborn parents should be more social with their baby during the day and keep things quieter and more relaxed at night. Over time, the variation in your behavior during the day and night will have your baby understanding that there is a difference.

Teaching your baby that there is a difference between daytime and nighttime will help them to ascertain better sleeping habits so that eventually they sleep at the same time you do. Most parents can’t wait for this part of their routine to start happening and we don’t blame you. For some light reading on how you can teach your newborn a thing or two about the sun, carry on reading below.

How to Establish Day and Night for Newborns

There are numerous ways in which you can show your little one that there is indeed a difference between night and day. How you act and interact with your baby during daytime and nighttime hours is the first place to start teaching them how to determine a difference.

Before we begin, here are some reminders for those new parents out there:

  • Keep in mind every parent does things differently
  • What works for a friend might not work for you and that’s ok
  • Most baby behaviors are similar in the first few weeks after their birth
  • Babies start to develop differently depending on their environment
  • Some babies pick up night and day routines easy while others get night and day confusion

Sleepless nights are common among most parents because babies aren’t yet aware that most of us adults like and need to sleep a healthy 6-8 hours every night when the sun goes down. Establishing day and night for a baby is important so that eventually they sleep for longer periods at night.

Newborn babies tend to sleep a fair bit in the first few weeks of their life. If someone asks you if your newborn is sleeping well, don’t gloat about how good they’re sleeping because in some cases it might come back to bite you on the bum when they’re struggling with night and day patterns and their sleep is no longer fruitful.

Your baby has been growing inside a dark womb for up to nine months so you can’t expect that they’re going to adjust to the light easily. Establishing a good routine for your baby to learn how to separate night from the day will take some work but we have all the right advice and tips to guide you.

Showing Your Newborn Baby How to Separate Night and Day

For the first few weeks of your infant’s life, it’s normal for them to sleep up to 18 hours a day in sporadic timeframes. Wake, eat, sleep, repeat. Much like a teenager on school holidays…

In fact, I’m going to be straight with you here, the first few weeks of your newborn’s life might be some of the toughest weeks for new parents. It’s not just the lack of sleep, it’s also the stress, constant worrying, and lack of energy from being too tired to feed yourself. Hang in there, parents. The worrying never goes away but it does get easier.

When your baby starts to wake and sleep more, you’ll want to start showing them that it’s better for them to sleep at night and to wake during the day. Although still erratic at times, you should start to find that any type of day and night confusion gets cleared up reasonably quickly.

Here are a few ways in which you can start teaching your baby how to tell the difference between nighttime and daytime:

  • Play and interact with them when the sun comes up
  • Keep their bedroom and any area of the house your baby is in light during the day
  • Engage with your baby more in daylight including when feeding
  • Family Doctor suggests opening windows during the day
  • Family Doctor also recommends not to offer any stimulation at night, such as playing and talking including when feeding
  • Keep things calm at night, gentle and inside voices
  • Keep the lights low at night to prevent confusion

Showing your newborn how to establish night and day early on will make life easier for yourself and will make routines easier to follow.

Treat night and day around your baby as you generally would any other time except leave the lights off or dimmed low when your baby is in the room. Keep it dark for nighttime feeds, whisper gently, and keep overall noise levels down.

What is Day and Night Confusion in Babies?

Day and night confusion is a real thing. It’s common among newborns so please don’t ever feel like your baby alone is out to give you a hard time. Day and night confusion in babies happens when they sleep longer during in the day and wake more often throughout the night. Sounding familiar?

Some babies can overcome the confusion, with help from their loving and exhausted parents, within a matter of days, while others can take much longer, possibly even weeks. What you can look forward to though, is that eventually, your baby will work out the difference.

Here are a few tricks you can try to get your baby’s circadian rhythm (internal 24-hour clock) set for proper night and day exposure:

  • Don’t withhold feeding to make them try to sleep longer. As you already know, babies need regular feeds. Instead, just keep the lights low and don’t interact with them other than to feed them.
  • If your baby is napping longer during the day, it is ok to wake them. I’d recommend waking them if they’re napping longer than two hours.
  • Feed your baby more during these waking hours so they aren’t so hungry throughout the night.
  • Provide plenty of interaction and attention during the daytime feeds. Sing songs, talk, put music on, and let the sunshine fill the room.
  • Go outside during the day. Walk, shop, brunch. Take your baby with you and get plenty of fresh air and time out in nature. Be back inside before it’s dark.
  • Try using a swaddle at night so that your baby is sleeping in a different “environment” at nighttime. Then take the swaddle off for daytime naps.

Basically, every time your baby wakes during the daytime, make a big deal out of it so it’s like they’re waking up on the right side of the bed every time they wake up. Although, if your bub is tired, let them sleep. Nothing good comes out of an overtired baby.

In conclusion – babies will find their rhythm, when they’re ready

Training and teaching don’t happen overnight and establishing a day and night for your baby can take some time. You can start showing your infant that there is a difference between day and night as early as 4 weeks old, but they might not start recognizing the difference until they’re 4 months or older.

It can often feel like a lifetime, but once your baby starts sleeping more at night thanks to your parenting and teaching with the above tips, it’ll make the world of difference for both your baby and you to be getting much-needed rest at night.

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