Now that winter is here, it’s important to find out how to keep your baby’s night and day body clock strong, to help your baby sleep well through the colder months of the year.
Our previous column looked at dressing your baby for winter sleep. Now we will look at how to maximise your baby’s night and day rhythm for great sleep.
Your baby was born without a night and day rhythm. Hormonally their body will now be aware of the difference between night and day due to exposure to light and dark cycles. You can strongly influence the maintenance of their night and day rhythm (also referred to as circadian rhythm or body clock) by following these steps.
1. Wake your baby between 6 and 7 each morning.
2. Aim to feed 3-4 hourly from now until you go to bed tonight. This will mean your baby will have between 5-6 feeds during your awake time. Most will need to have one (or sometimes 2) feeds overnight but you are putting the vast majority of their feeds into the day time – exactly where you want the bulk of your feeds to be!
3. Keep the house as light and bright as possible through the day. This is especially important during overcast, cold and rainy weather. During inclement weather you can have floor play on a mat near a window. Expose your baby to as much natural light as possible in their awake play time.
4. Try to get some outdoors time at least once each day.
5. Keep the daytime sleeping space dimmed but not dark.
6. Between 5-6 pm - start a routine of an evening bath, massage, get into pyjamas. Have some quite time in the living area that has overhead lights turned down or off and lamps turned on for softer lighting.
7. Avoid sensory over-stimulation when the sun goes down. Avoid TV and bright, primary-coloured toys.
8. Make the sleep space as dark as possible overnight. We strongly suggest you avoid night lights or any other low wattage lighting in the area your baby is sleeping. Darkness is needed to help the establishment of healthy sleep development overnight.
9. Be different in your night and day interactions, keep your voice low and less playful at night.
Your baby will have already developed a night and day rhythm in the first 2-3 months following birth. Being aware of daylight and darkness cycles over a period of a few weeks is one of the big keys to how your baby develops a night and day rhythm.
This will mean that your baby will have started to develop longer and longer periods of sleep overnight, only waking for feeds. It will also mean that feeds will gradually occur less often at night and stay regular and predictable through the day, so that your baby is taking most of their nutrition during daylight hours and able to sleep for longer periods at night.