Entrainment to the 24-hour light-dark cycle is of adaptive significance to mammals. Human infants are no exception, but some postnatal care habits prevalent in developed countries can interfere with the physiological mechanisms underlying circadian synchronization. We describe the physiological mechanisms of entrainment to the light-dark cycle in fetuses and newborns, and some common parental care behaviors which subject the developing circadian system of the newborn to conflicting temporal cues. Improvements in parental care are proposed which may improve the circadian synchronization of newborns, and their parents or caregivers.
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