Basics Sleep

Are Babies Afraid Of The Dark?

You’ve given your baby their last feed of the day, brushed their teeth and dressed them in a cozy swaddle or sleep sack, ready to hopefully have a restful night’s sleep (in their crib and not in your arms).

But as soon as you leave the room they start crying.

A thought pops into your mind – could your baby perhaps be afraid of the dark?

Or is a baby usually a certain age before they develop a fear of darkness?

Let’s find out.

Are Babies Afraid Of The Dark?

The answer is….no, babies are not afraid of the dark.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite for a young baby – babies actually like the dark and sleep better in dark rooms.

This is because darkness is all your baby knew for many months when in the womb, so it’s something they find very comforting and familiar.

From around the age of 2-3 months, babies start producing melatonin, which is a naturally-produced hormone that helps encourage sleep.

The key thing here is your baby’s brain will produce melatonin in response to darkness, and this is the reason why the amount of light in a room is so important for your baby’s sleep.

At What Age Do Babies Get Scared Of The Dark?

So if babies aren’t afraid of the dark, when does this fear tend to develop in children?

The answer is usually when a child is 2-3 years old, which is when they develop an imagination.

At this age a baby is old enough to have an imagination, but not old enough or wise enough to be able to tell the difference between fantasy and reality (which could also be the cause of any nightmares they might be having).

Do Babies Need A Light On At Night?

Many parents assume a night light is necessary, but this is not the case.

In fact, there’s a good chance your baby will sleep better without any lights on.

However, assuming the light does not disturb your baby (more on this later), it’s perfectly fine to leave a light on in your baby’s room, but the reason for doing so should be because it helps you, not because of any imaginary fears of the dark.

So if you find it easier to move around the room, feed and check on your baby with a light on then that should be fine.

Tips For Using A Night Light

If you do decide to use a night light, here are some tips that will help ensure you don’t disturb your baby or their sleep pattern:

  • Position the light in the area of the room that you’ll need at night (for example by their changing table), but not too close to your child’s crib, bassinet or baby monitor.
  • Use a very dim lamp that isn’t bright enough to disturb you little one’s sleep.
  • Choose a light which emits a warm tone, such as yellow.
  • Consider whether you need a light with additional features such as a remote control, temperature display, changing colors, dimmer and a timer.

Can Babies See In The Dark?

No babies cannot see in the dark.

When your baby is born they cannot see very far at all – at first, the maximum distance they can see objects at is around 16 inches.

Newborns prefer to look at faces rather than objects, and in terms of color they only see black, white and shades of grey.

This lasts for around the first 4 months, after which time your baby will start to develop their color vision.

How Dark Should A Baby’s Room Be?

Some parents are cautious about not making their baby’s room too dark, with the mistaken belief that this could unsettle their child.

So just how dark should your little one’s room be?

If possible your baby’s room should be very dark both at night and for daytime naps, as this is the best environment for them to sleep in.

It’s hard to quantify exactly how dark to make your baby’s room, but on a scale of one to ten, many sleep experts recommending going for 8 or 9 out of 10, which is almost pitch black.

Baby being held in a dark room

Why Do Babies Cry When You Put Them Down?

So if your baby is not crying because of the dark, and you know they’re not over-tired or hungry, what else could be making them cry?

Chances are it’s most likely because you are not there with them.

Babies love being touched, held and reassured by your presence – just being in the same room as your baby is very comforting to them.

So when you’re not there, and you baby is alone in a room, it’s your missing touch and attention they’re crying out for, not the fear of the dark.

In Conclusion

  • Babies are not afraid of the dark, because they do not have an imagination and have nothing to base this fear on.
  • A temporary fear of darkness usually develops in children when they have an imagination, which is when they’re 2-3 years of age.
  • Newborns and young babies actually prefer the dark because they find it comforting.
  • Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, which help your baby (and adults) sleep.
  • It’s fine to use a night light if it helps you move around the room of feed your baby.
  • If your baby is crying when you put them down it’s probably because they miss you, and not because they are afraid of being in a dark room.

Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

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