A circadian rhythm is your internal body clock based on 24 hour periods. It is what helps you know the difference between day and night. A newborn baby does not have an established circadian rhythm when they are born, and it can take up to 6 months to fully establish itself.
There are ways in which you can support the circadian rhythm of your baby that you can do from the start. However as it is a developmental change, this can only help so much in the first 6 months. Following these ideas will help create a routine and habits that will help support this development and allow you to practice teaching them the difference between day and night.
Tips to Establish the Circadian Rhythm
Have natural light in the home throughout the day.
Make sure you get outside in natural light for at least 30 minutes everyday.
Get a good feeding schedule throughout the day (this should mean less wakings due to hunger at night). 3 hourly feeds during the first 12 weeks works well during the day.
Sensory stimulation in the day helps sleep at night. Walks outside in nature, singing, social interactions and tummy time will lead to better sleep.
Establish a bedtime routine, such as a bath, big feed and stories before bed in a calm, quiet and dark/dimly lit environment.
Sing a song, or read a story before each sleep time (baby’s thrive on a routine, even a simple bed/nap time one).
If your baby wakes for a feed at night, do not turn the light, TV or your phone on. Keep stimulants to a minimum and try to settle your baby back to sleep as soon as they have been fed and winded (and changed).
White or blue light, that comes from a tv, phone or lightbulb, stops the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Using a red light during the night feeds will be more beneficial.
A set 'bedtime' and 'morning wake time' can work well in helping you establish what is night time and what is day time. This in turn will help your baby to understand which one is which too. For example, if you decide 6am is appropriate to be awake, then have this as your 'wake time'. Any time your baby wakes up before this, treat it like a night waking (whether it's light outside or not). Keep interaction to a minimum, lights/stimulation off and contact nap/co-sleep if needed to get to the appropriate wake time. Once you hit 6am (or your appropriate awake time), this is when you can then open the curtains and start your day.
Remember: babies wake often during the night, whether it is to feed, for comfort, or a change. This is normal behaviour throughout the first few years of life.
Please email adeline @ newparentcompany.com if you would like further support with your baby's sleep.