Most of us likely want to repress the memories of sleepless nights, puffy eyes and general zombie-like monotonous rhythm of feed, burp, sleep with our babies. While “sleep when your baby sleeps” is promising advice for new parents, that often means becoming nocturnal, as newborn sleep patterns are reverse cycled.

After spending nine months in a dark (and sometimes noisy) womb, your newborn has established her own sleep cycles, which feel natural to her even if they seem strange to you. Just as she lets you know she’s hungry at any time of the day or night, your baby’s sleep patterns may seem random at first, sometimes changing from one day to the next.

Babies aren’t born knowing how to put themselves to sleep when they’re tired or how to wake up when they’re well-rested. This is all learned behavior. If your newborn sleeps like a vampire all day and is up all night long, or if she’s exhibiting other common infant sleep patterns like frequent night wakings, restless sleeping or early waking, it’s all completely normal. Her sleep patterns will evolve as she grows.

But why are babies up all night and awake during the day?

In the womb, there are no clocks. When the womb is nice and jiggly from their mom’s activity, that’s when they like to doze off. But when the womb is still and boring (Mom is at her desk working or asleep in bed), that’s when they like to play. Once a baby is born, these patterns continue, as parents often perpetuate them by allowing babies to sleep all day and feed at night.

Feel it ever feel like your babies get their days and nights mixed up? They do. Here's why and some tips on how to fix it.

Normal sleep patterns for newborns

While all children are different, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that for the first two months of life, newborns need 16-18 hours of sleep, consisting of eight to nine nighttime sleep hours and seven to nine hours of naps. Shortly after, it is recommended to slowly introduce gentle stimulation during the day to increase daytime wakefulness.

Setting the schedule straight

When it comes to shifting a baby’s sleep schedule, parents should recreate the sleep cues they loved so much in the womb. Snug surroundings, motion and whooshing noise of the womb helps babies sleep while they were inside of you, so once they’re born, use tight swaddling, white noise and motion at night to signal to your little one that it’s time to nod off. Another helpful tip is introducing a dream feed to a baby’s nighttime schedule. Dream feeding is the practice of feeding a sleeping infant with the goal to encourage them to sleep longer.

Don’t forget to follow A Matter Of Style on Instagram for more great decorating ideas for kids and babies. While getting your child on a proper sleep schedule may seem like a task, remember “this too shall” pass.

Detroit and Ann Arbor Metro Parent. 2021. Why Do Babies Get Their Days And Nights Mixed Up? – Detroit And Ann Arbor Metro Parent. [online] Available at: <https://www.metroparent.com/daily/pregnancy-baby/newborn-care/why-do-babies-get-their-days-and-nights-mixed-up/> [Accessed 11 January 2021].

What to Expect. 2021. Baby Sleep Patterns – How To Get Newborns To Sleep. [online] Available at: <https://www.whattoexpect.com/baby-behavior/infant-sleep-patterns.aspx> [Accessed 11 January 2021].

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