After the exhausting task of carrying your baby for 9 months and delivering her safely into the world, it would be wonderful to be able to meet the enormous demands of motherhood in a calm and well-rested state. Sadly, your newborn may have a very different idea and keep you awake and on your toes at night, whilst resting peacefully during the day when you are trying to get things done.

The reason your baby has her day and night reversed is that during the final weeks of pregnancy she got used to the rocking and lulling to sleep while you walked around during the day and so became more wakeful at night, while you slept. Unfortunately after birth, many babies keep this habit up and reverse day and night. If your baby sleeps for hours in the day and is awake half the night, feeding and niggling, you need to help her readjust her time clock.

Daytime

The goal is to help your baby learn that this is the time for interaction and in the next few weeks, to ensure she gets 80% of her nutrition during daylight hours. How to do this:

  • Wake your baby for the day by 8 am and ensure the first waking in daylight hours is met with engaging interaction and some stimulation, so she knows its appropriate to be awake
  • Make sure she feeds at least three to four hourly during the day. If she is still sleeping and its been three and a half hours since that last feed began, wake her up so that she feeds before a four-hour stretch passes
  • Afternoon sleeps can be taken out of the sleep zone and even in the sunlight. Sunlight helps babies to sleep well at night (but be sure its indirect light and she cannot get sunburnt)
  • Between 5 and 6 pm, a bath time routine with a massage can be helpful to create an association that night time is coming
  • After a bath, don’t stimulate her and keep all interactions hushed. Do not go out of her sleep zone and feed her swaddled and in the dark. Do not burp her for long and settle her to sleep.

Nighttime

The goal to help your little one realize that nighttime is boring and that it’s not worth being awake. Initially, your baby may feed as frequently as she does during the day but you are aiming for only 2 night feeds and straight back to sleep thereafter.

  • Keep interactions at night very muted and subdued – do not even change her nappy if it is not soiled
  • Keep the room dark for feeds, using a dim night-light or leave the passage light on
  • Do not wake your baby at all to feed at night, unless your doctor has instructed you to do so
  • Do not talk to her or even burp her for longer than 5 minutes after a night feed – most babies manage best if they are resettled in the dark straight after a feed.