When baby is still in Mom’s tummy, she is treated to constant movement that helps her to relax. Then, when mom settles down for a little relaxation, baby is able to move around, kick, and otherwise make her presence known. Her sleep times and awake times have little to do with light or darkness, because it’s always dark in there.
Of course, once she’s born, she enters a world where most of us would prefer to sleep during the night time and be awake during the day time. As all parents can attest, babies don’t catch onto that fact right away.
While you will not be able to make your newborn sleep through the night, there are some things you can do to help her begin to differentiate the differences between day and night and to recognize night as time for sleeping. Of course, for the first four months or so, she will need to eat every two to four hours. But that doesn’t mean anyone needs to stay up all night.
The best way to handle night time feedings is to keep them as boring as possible. By all means, you should cuddle your baby while you feed her, and make eye contact during the feeding. These things communicate your love and care for baby. What you don’t want to do, however, it to do a lot of talking to baby, turn lights on, or otherwise make the environment stimulating.
Keep the lights turned down very low. Off is even better if you can still feed and change your baby without turning the lights on (some can, some can’t). Any noise you make should be designed to soothe your baby, such as singing a lullaby or speaking in a quiet, soothing tone. The idea is to take care of your baby’s legitimate needs (ie, feeding and changing) and help her get back to sleep.
The flip side of this is that you will want to make her awake time during the day as fun and interesting as you can. Make sure there is plenty to see, play with her, talk to her, and otherwise try to make her time during the day interesting and stimulating. Of course babies do need to nap during the day, too, so don’t overdo it.
When babies do take naps, try to lay them down someplace that is dark. This will further reinforce the idea that it’s time to sleep when it’s dark. Put dark shades over the windows in baby’s room. Alternately, cover the shades with a blanket or something else that will darken the room.
There is no guarantee that doing any of this will make your baby sleep through the night faster. Every baby is different. What it will do in most cases, however, is help baby start to get a grasp on the concept that dark is good for sleeping and light is good for playing and being awake.