How can I alter my newborn's sleep schedule?

Q: Our 5-day-old baby seems to sleep all day and is awake all night. What can we do?

A: Many newborns are born as night owls (in fact, babies' earliest sleep habits are established toward the end of your pregnancy), but this pattern will start to shift as your baby gets used to life outside of your belly. Of course, a newborn should be sleeping as many as 16 hours during the first few weeks and needs to eat every few hours, so your baby will need to be awake at night and asleep during the day some of the time. The goal is to try to move your baby's primary awake time to the daylight hours. To speed things along, keep your home as bright as possible during the day. Babies are also very stimulated (and, hence, kept awake) by noise, eye contact, and from having their feet tickled and played with. When your newborn locks eyes with you, her heart rate speeds up, her blood pressure rises a bit, and she becomes more awake. So during the day, make eye contact whenever you can, keep up a steady stream of talking and play with her tootsies often. As it gets dark, be sure to skip all of these things. Try to avoid direct eye contact while you feed your baby, speak or sing lullabies only in whispers or singsong tones, keep the lights dim, and don't tickle her feet. After a few days of these tricks, your baby will start to learn that daytime is for play and interaction, while nighttime is for cuddling and sleeping.

Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.

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