My 3-week-old has her days and nights mixed up. She'll sleep very comfortably in her car seat and in people's arms during the day, and generally is only awake for a couple of hours to eat. At night, on the other hand, the only thing that gets her to stay somewhat asleep is her vibrating bouncy chair. She’s generally up three – four times per night feeding. I'm sure many parents have encountered this before. How do we put her on a schedule more conducive to our needs?
Jeff, thanks for your question about your newborn’s sleep patterns. Newborns don’t make any distinction between day and night—they wake up when they’re hungry, typically every 1½–4 hours around the clock. As your baby grows and develops, you can help her learn to be awake and play more during the daytime and to sleep more at nighttime.
When your baby is awake during the daytime, feed her for longer periods, interact with her when you change her nappy, talk with her, sing to her, play with her, hold her, take her out for walks, bathe her, etc. If she sleeps during the day for longer than three hours, gently wake her up to play with her and feed her. Try to keep her up a little later in the evening, feed her well, and put her to sleep for the night around 10 or 11:00 p.m.
Make your nighttime interactions with your baby as brief and calm as possible. When she begins fussing in the middle of the night, wait and listen for a couple of minutes—sometimes babies fuss and move around as they are going through a different phase of sleep, but then they put themselves back to sleep. If, in fact, your baby is awake and hungry, feed her quietly with the lights low. If you need to change her nappy, do it quickly, then put her back to sleep. Don’t play with her in the middle of the night. Over time, she’ll learn that nighttime is for sleeping, not for playing. Soon, you’ll both start getting a better night’s sleep.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.