Little Night Owls
"Don't you know it's the middle of the night?" you ask your infant, who's looking up at you, wide-eyed. That he doesn't have a clue -- and couldn't care less -- is clear; he's sleeping away his days and raring to go for long stretches at night.
It's natural for a new baby to have his days and nights flopped to a certain extent, says Barbara Howard, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Virtually every infant wakes during the night to feed and takes daytime naps, but some newborns have their most wakeful, alert hours -- maybe several in a row -- after midnight, while their longest slumber occurs when the sun shines.
Most of us function on a circadian rhythm -- a 24-hour cycle in which we sleep in 7- or 8-hour increments during the darkest part of the day. Newborns-whose biological clocks aren't mature yet-may take a few months to catch on. That's a long time to wait when you're an exhausted new parent. Fortunately, there are some ways to speed the process.
"The key is to take advantage of environmental cues that tell our body's internal clock when to sleep and when to be active," says Dr. Howard. Light is the primary cue, but feeding and social interaction also play a part.
TACTICS TO TRY
Soon enough, your gentle daily lessons will get your baby -- and you -- off the night shift.