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How to deal when your baby has their days and nights mixed up

Photo of a newborn sleeping while being held by an adult

Caitlin Chartier’s three babies had a lot in common—they all walked early and hated peas. They also all struggled with day/night confusion (sometimes called day/night reversal), which is when a newborn’s sleep ratio overwhelmingly skews in such a way that they spend the bulk of their day sleeping and most of the night awake. In other words, they have have their days and nights mixed up. “I was up all night with all three babies,” says Chartier, who lives in Ottawa.

Wendy Hall, a UBC School of Nursing professor emeritus and expert in infant sleep, notes that what parents interpret as day/night confusion sometimes isn’t. After all, newborns sleep up to 80 percent of the day and usually feed every one to three hours around the clock. To parents accustomed to seven or eight hours of solid sleep, these frequent wake-ups can leave the impression that their baby is up all night.

Newborns also engage in “active sleep,” during which they may move, make noise or even open their eyes. Parents sometimes misinterpret these behaviours as their child being awake and then, while trying to comfort their fussing infant, wake up the baby, feeding the theory that their child doesn’t sleep at night.

Still, “babies aren’t born knowing day from night,” says Hall. They learn this as their biological clocks mature and their sleep-related hormones ramp up and stabilize. This means that, without intervention, most babies sort out their sleep patterns by about six months, though some can take longer. But there are ways to speed up the process a bit.

Make their days more wakeful

“Sunlight really does set the body’s internal program,” says Amanda Jewson, a Toronto-based sleep consultant and owner of Baby’s Best Sleep. Get your babe outside, ideally every day. If that’s not possible, set up your baby’s play area in a sunny spot by a window. When your baby is outside, protect them from the sun with a hat and a stroller shade, but note that babies don’t need to constantly wear sunglasses, says Hall, who adds that UV exposure is key to setting a circadian rhythm.

Some babies have their days and nights confused because of their eating schedule. “Your baby doesn’t care when she’s feeding,” says Hall. This means that if a baby takes epic naps during the day, they’ll make up for missed calories by eating more frequently at night. In this case, wake your baby every few hours during the day, feeding them and then providing some mild stimulation to keep them up for 45 minutes to an hour before letting them sleep again.

Set their nights up for sleep

While you need to be flexible with newborns (and keep sleep expectations low), you can encourage good sleep habits by implementing a basic bedtime routine at around one month old—like a fresh diaper, pyjamas, feeding and cuddles. “Keep the external stimuli to a minimum,” says Jewson. This means a dark room, ideally with no visible blue light of any kind, such as from a sound machine or your smartphone. Practise this same low-stimuli approach through the night.

If you’ve heard of a folk remedy that says you can fix your baby’s day/night confusion by flipping them head over heels, don’t try it. Hall says she’s never seen evidence that would support that approach, and that flipping a baby vigorously could cause injury.

At Chartier’s house, they followed their first-born’s backwards schedule at first, but at around five months, she’d had enough and introduced her baby to a bedtime routine, including a set bedtime, a bottle and a bath. It worked, and memories of too many sleepless nights caused Chartier to address her subsequent two children’s reversed sleep patterns sooner. Both kids were introduced to a bedtime routine similar to her first-born’s before they hit four months. And just like with her son, her younger two babes embraced the practice within weeks of implementation and began sleeping more during the nights. The routine did the trick, shifting her kids onto a normal sleep schedule within weeks of implementation.

The post How to deal when your baby has their days and nights mixed up appeared first on Today's Parent.

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Took my son to the park for the first time today!

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The 10 Best & Safest Baby Stroller Brands

Shopping for baby gear sounds exciting in theory, but once you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of endless stroller reviews, the reality can be a little less thrilling. After days of scrolling online, you may still be left wondering whether to go for a travel system or stand-alone stroller, and whether the stroller that turns…

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weeLove: A Multipurpose (Space Saving!) Must-Have

Larktale scoobi 5-in-1 Scooter On-the-Go as They Grow Little kids have big ideas about how they want to get around: bike, scooter, superpowers… The scoobi® 5-in-1 Scooter makes it simple to give your kiddo plenty of awesome ways to be on the move as they grow. (And those superpowers can...

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5 Reasons to Hire a Sleep Consultant


If you’re here reading this, you’re probably curious about working with a sleep coach. Maybe you’re wondering what it’s like, or you want to know how it works. Or, perhaps you’re at your wits-end and hiring a sleep coach is your plan Z. Whatever the case, welcome! Here are five reasons to contact me today.

You’ve read all the books

A common thread with my clients – apart from them wanting healthy sleep – is that they’ve read all of the books and blogs and maybe even tried bits and pieces of plans, but nothing’s worked. When you’re sleep-deprived, putting together a sleep plan or following scattered bits of advice is daunting and often confusing. Working with a pediatric sleep consultant is like having a personal baby sleep decoder, streamlining things and devising a custom plan just for you.

You’re ready to transition

Whether you’re weaning your little from nighttime feedings or ready to transition from your cosleeping arrangement, you need help with creating a plan. This is where I come in and shine – I’ve helped hundreds of little ones establish healthy sleep routines throughout transitions, whether it’s dropping a nap or sleeping independently.

You need someone with experience

This isn’t my first (or second or third) rodeo. Over the past nine years, I’ve helped over 900 little people achieve healthy sleep and develop long-term sleep habits. I would love to include you in my family of happy and healthy sleepers!

You need motivation and support

Three days into your plan, nothing’s working – you’re ready to give up. No! You’re almost there, and I’m here to motivate you to keep up the routine and support you until it sticks and your little one is sleeping like a champ. In my experience, some babies take a week to two weeks to fall into the rhythm of their new sleep routine. I’m here to see it through with you and to provide tips along the way.

You need customized support

No two babies are alike, nor are family schedules. The beauty of working with me as your sleep coach is that I create a customized plan just for you. We work together to generate sleep schedules and routines that fit in your busy life. Whether you’re a work-at-home mom or reporting to an office each day, we’ll work together to create a unique plan for your family.

You need a plan, not advice

If you’re here checking out my blog, then you’ve likely had conversations with well-meaning family and friends about your baby’s sleep (or lack thereof). I’m sure you’ve gotten well-intentioned advice or just comments about how your cousin’s children were all great sleepers. None of it is especially helpful, and even those bits of advice that seemed promising haven’t panned out. 

When you hire a sleep consultant, you don’t get tips to try and see if they stick. Instead, you get a plan from someone who’s worked with hundreds of babies and has seen a wide range of little sleepers. You receive a schedule with times and details, walking you through setting and establishing a healthy sleep routine. I’m available throughout the process for motivation, support, and troubleshooting along the way. 
So, what are you waiting for? Schedule your complimentary 15-minute assessment today!

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My baby cowboy


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Can I get some support on getting some votes for my little princess!


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Smart Sock Plus Frequently Asked Questions

It’s finally HERE! The much anticipated Smart Sock Plus is here and we are beyond thrilled to bring our award-winning technology to more children and families. We heard from so many Owlet families who want to monitor their babies for longer, so we’re breaking down some frequently asked questions about the new Smart Sock Plus: …

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