Newborn Sleeps All Day… Is Day-Night Confusion To Blame?

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 10/15/21 •  7 min read

What does it mean if your newborn sleeps all day, then parties all night?

Welcome to the world of day-night confusion, mumma!

Unfortunately, it’s all too common in newborn babies.

But don’t despair, it can be very easily fixed with a few fail-safe tactics!

Of course, being so teeny tiny, your newborn baby still needs to wake frequently for feeds both day and night. 

And it’s important to know what a newborn baby’s ideal sleep schedule should be… 

So let’s dive right into it so you can regain your precious sleep once more and baby can find balance with food and sleep!

Is it normal if my newborn sleeps all day?

YES and NO. It all depends on what you mean by sleep all day! 

Because the truth is… babies sleep A LOT.

But they will wake at regular intervals for a feed, out of discomfort from a wet nappy or simply for a cuddle and a play. 

If baby is not waking regularly for these things then there may be something else going on that needs addressing.

Also, it is important to remember that newborn babies have small tummies and they need to eat frequently in order to regain their birth weight. 

So while it may be tempting to let your baby have that extra sleep and give you a little longer to get things done or sleep yourself, you should NOT let your newborn sleep through feed times in the early weeks.

If your newborn is frequently sleeping through feeds, day or night, then you may need to look for an underlying cause…

How much are newborns supposed to sleep?

Most newborns sleep between 14-17 hours out of every 24, waking every 2-4 hours to feed. 

So you can see that the majority of their early days are spent sleeping!

This regular pattern of waking and sleeping should continue until they have regained their birth weight, and are gaining weight steadily (typically 2 weeks old).

By 4 weeks old, your newborn baby will usually start to sleep for longer periods and be awake for longer too.

Pop over to my post on How Much are Newborns Supposed to Sleep for more detailed information on newborn sleep patterns.

How long should you let your newborn sleep at a time?

As a rule, newborns should not sleep for more than 4 hours at a time.

A newborn should wake every 2-4 hours to feed no matter how tempting it may be to leave them snoozing away.

Breastfed babies require feeding every 2-3 hours and bottle-fed babies every 3-4 hours, but in either case, you should not let your baby sleep for longer than 4 hours between feeds in the early weeks.

Once they have regained their birth weight and are on a steady curve upwards on the growth chart, your doctor or paediatrician will give you the green light to let your baby sleep for longer periods.

Top Tip: If you are anxious about how much your baby is sleeping, Keep a sleep journal. Keeping a journal of your little one’s sleep can help you feel more in control and be a good reference should you need to speak to a doctor.

Is Day-Night Confusion To Blame?

If your newborn sleeps all day and is restless at night, they may have day-night confusion.

This can happen when your little one does not know the difference between active, bright and noisy daytime to quiet, calm and darker nighttime.

Your newborn may sleep all day and be restless all night as a result.

If this is the case, it’s even more important to teach your newborn the difference between daytime and nighttime to ensure you both get the most out of your days and get adequate sleep at the right time!

So how can we fix day-night confusion? 

Well, first things first… 

You need to implement a feeding and sleep schedule…

PS: Read more about getting a newborn to sleep at night here – Getting A Newborn To Sleep At Night.

What is an ideal newborn sleep schedule?

While all babies are different and have their own little quirks… the one thing that remains consistent for all newborns is FEEDING. 

While the amount of sleep a baby requires will vary from one to another, all babies need regular feeds and their sleep schedule needs to fit around this.

For all newborns, the following schedule rules will apply:

For the first 4 to 6 weeks this will pretty much be your routine with your baby’s needs revolving around sleeping and feeding.

Top Tip: If you have a sleepy newborn then set an alarm to wake you for nighttime feeds. It is especially important for breastfeeding mums to feed regularly to establish milk production and prevent engorgement or mastitis. Learn more about these conditions in my Breastfeeding 101 post.

7 Fail-Proof Tactics to establish a healthy newborn sleep schedule

Here are 7 tips for establishing a healthy sleep schedule for both breast and bottle-fed babies:

  1. Wake your baby if they have not woken themselves (after 3 hours if breastfed/4 hours for bottle-fed).
  2. Change babies nappy BEFORE a feed (especially at night).
  3. Make sure your baby is fully awake for daytime feeds.
  4. Keep nighttime feeds low key in dim light (even more important if baby has day-night confusion)
  5. Always burp bottle-fed babies after a feed. Breastfed babies usually need less burping but don’t rule it out. Read my post Do Breastfed Babies Need To Burp After A Feed? to learn more.
  6. Ensure your baby is exposed to plenty of natural light during the day to help with day-night confusion. This will help your baby to sleep better at night and stay awake more during the day.
  7. Engage and play with your little one for short periods after daytime feeds.

What to do if you suspect something is wrong

Some babies will occasionally sleep longer than normal, especially if they have a cold, are going through a growth spurt or have had a more stimulating day than normal. 

However, if you suspect your newborn baby does not have day-night confusion and they’re regularly sleeping through feed time and has any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical advice:

9 times out of 10, baby will be fine and just need a longer sleep, but it’s better to be safe than sorry if you’re at all worried. 

If you have any further questions about if your newborn sleeps all day, please don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected] and I’ll be more than happy to answer them.

As always, until next time, with love and support, Happy Parenting.

Paula McLaren

Paul Mclaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the child care industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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