How Do I Flip a Baby to Regulate Sleep?

By Lizzie Brooks
Newborns may need help establishing healthy sleep habits.
Newborns may need help establishing healthy sleep habits.

Getting a newborn to “flip” his schedule so that he sleeps primarily at night and is more wakeful during the day helps teach a child healthy sleep habits and allows the rest of the family a better chance of being well rested as well. Flipping a schedule involves teaching your baby that daytime is for activity and naps, while nighttime is for long stretches of sleep.

Keep the noise, light and activities in your house at normal levels during daylight hours when your baby is awake. This helps your baby learn that daylight is associated with activity.

Encourage complete feedings. Don't let your baby doze off at the beginning of a feeding. Having a full tummy will help stretch daytime naps longer and let your baby practice longer sleep cycles.

Allow healthy amounts of daytime sleep. Daytime naps will not interfere with nighttime sleep in babies and young children. In fact, they can facilitate nighttime sleep by preventing a child from becoming so overtired that he has trouble settling down at bedtime. Also, daytime naps keep a child from becoming so tired that he falls asleep at dinner time, only to wake at 3 a.m., thinking that it is now morning.

Limit excessive daytime sleep. Gently try to keep your baby awake for a reasonable amount of time during the day with playtime, a change of scenery, a change of clothes or even a bath (if this is not part of your bedtime routine). If your child is sleeping a very long time during the day, you may decide to wake your child up.

Expose your baby to bright light during the day. Sunlight signals the production of melatonin in the human body, a hormone that helps to regulate daytime wakefulness and nighttime sleep. According to Ann Douglas' 2006 “Sleep Solutions,” exposing your baby to natural sunshine, using appropriate precautions to protect her delicate skin, will “increase the odds of your baby getting a good night's sleep.”

Schedule a quieter, transitional time during the evening to cue your baby that bedtime is approaching and allow for some winding-down from busier times of the day.

Establish a bedtime routine where you follow the same steps every night and that culminates in your child going to bed and hopefully to sleep. Over time, your child will learn that this routine is the signal that it is time to sleep.

Keep the light, noise and activity level as low as possible when your child does wake during the night. Perform feedings and diaper changes as calmly and quietly as possible. Eventually your baby will begin to associate daytime with activity and nighttime with rest.

Tip

Although you can try to encourage your baby in the direction of good sleep habits, be patient. A baby's brain, central nervous system and digestive system are all immature as a newborn. It will take time for your baby to sleep for longer stretches. According to "Sleep Solutions," the average mother loses 550 hours of sleep during her child's first year of life and the average baby is considered to be a good sleeper if he will sleep for a five-hour stretch at night by three months of age.

Music over your headphones, or a game played on a cell phone or other hand-held device, can help keep you from drifting off when baby doesn't want to go back to sleep at night; this way you can still maintain a dimly lit, quiet atmosphere.