When you finally bring baby home and fall into a routine, you might notice that his or her cycle seems a bit off. In the womb, babies usually sleep during the day while their mothers are active and wake up at night when their mothers are sleeping. This might have something to do with the maternal body’s inability to foster two separate active bodies at once. Whatever the cause, your baby will come home with sleep cycle habits vastly different from your own. You’ll be ready and excited to play with your baby all day, but he’ll be more interested in catching some shut eye. When you’re finally exhausted and ready for bed, your baby will perk up and keep you running back and forth to the crib. Not all babies are born with this habit, but those that have it serve as a source of frustration.

The only way you can get your baby to follow your own cycle is to force it upon him. Build their circadian rhythm by making it very clear when they should be awake and when they should be sleeping. During the daytime, keep your baby up as much as possible while still allowing for the full 16 hours of rest. Don’t swaddle him as often, and make sure his or her room is bright and sunny. Light is one of the most important parts of building your baby’s sleep cycle. Keeping the nursery completely dark during daytime naps will only slow the process. Keep the baby around people so that he feels the instinctive social need to stay alert. As evening approaches, keep your baby awake as long as possible.

When it’s finally bedtime, make your baby as cozy as possible. Swaddle him and make sure he is comfortably positioned. Steady, white noise often helps restless babies fall asleep, and of course you should make sure the nursery is as dark as possible. If there are streetlights or headlights outside of your window, invest in heavy curtains so that your baby sleeps through the night undisturbed.

The process will take time, but by following these guidelines you can speed up the process of developing your baby’s sleep cycle to mimic your own. Once he can sleep through the night, you’ll notice that motherhood becomes a lot less stressful. You’ll both be well rested, and the daytime will bring more exciting and fun adventures.

Source: Mannel, Rebecca, Patricia J. Martens, and Marsha Walker. Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Pub., 2008. 89-92. Print.

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