Are My Baby’s Days and Nights Mixed Up?

Many a mother has a similar complaint: their baby is up all night and asleep during the day. “Common” wisdom says that the baby’s days and nights are mixed up. Then there are numerous theories on how you “fix” the problem. I have met many moms who have “the solution” on how to train the baby so that he’s not confused. However, I have come to believe that the issue is not confusion on the part of the baby but rather the need for mom to adjust her expectations!

That Whole “Days and Nights Mixed Up” Thing. . .

Is somewhat of a wives’ tale. Baby’s don’t have their days and nights mixed up, they are designed biologically to wake up every few hours around the clock. The idea comes from the fact that while in utero, the baby is rocked during the day while mom is walking around and awake and so he is lulled to sleep. However, at night, when mom is still, the baby wakes up and often starts kicking.

However, once the baby is born, his needs for nutrition, warmth, and comfort (all things that were automatically provided in utero) take over and parents find themselves up much more than they ever thought physically possible! The truth is though, that babies are hypersensitive to stimuli. While you might look at it as something that keeps you up all night, for the baby, this hypersensitivity ensures that his temperature is regulated, he gets all the nutrition he needs, and that he is dry and comfortable.

What Do I Do?

What I frequently find in talking to people who think they are possibly dying of sleep deprivation is that they are trying to do too much. When you have a newborn, you need to try to sleep while the baby is sleeping. It’s tempting to get things done while the baby is sleeping, but if you rest, it will do you a lot more good than will a dust free top shelf!

Another culprit that I often here about is the swing or baby bouncer. If you find that your baby is sleeping for long periods during the day while in the swing or baby bouncer, turn it off. You can wake your baby to feed him, although I find sleepy babies are very, very hard to feed. But in general, you should just be prepared for sleep deprivation for the first few weeks.

Building Good Habits

You should institute a good bed time routine that is at the same time every night. The routine can include cuddle time, a feeding and maybe even a bath. This will not ensure that your child will sleep for longer stretches through the night–only age will do that–but it will help set your toddler up for good bedtime habits so you can avoid the bedtime battles!