Updated: Jun 23, 2020
When I go and talk at parent drop in groups, there is often confusion over what time infants should go to bed for the night.
Many parents are concerned that their child goes to bed too late.
Reading a lot of literature can be confusing, as it seems that books and the internet recommend children going to bed at 7pm.
If your child is going to bed later, this can often cause concern for parents.
Although I am all for early bedtimes for children, not just for them, but its better for the parents too.
If an infant or toddler are napping later into the day, the reality is that they won't go to bed early, as they won't be tired enough to fall to sleep.
So if your child is stuck in what we would call a: LATE sleep phase - what do you do?
It's all about the last nap of the day. Infact, when analyzing client logs I often see parents treat what could, would or should be bedtime as the last nap of the day, then bringing their little one out of bed at the first brief partial arousal and bathing them, putting them back to bed for the night around 10pm.
If you want your baby to go to bed earlier you have to really work on their daytime routine.
Here are 3 tips, that can help you adjust bedtime to an earlier time if that is your goal.
1. Morning wake up time
If you want to have an earlier bedtime, it's important that you also have a relatively early start to your day.
Your baby will not go go bed at 7pm and sleep in until 10am. Something has to give - early starts can be difficult if you are still up several times over night rocking, nursing, bouncing etc, but if you babies tend to sleep in the 10-12 hr range, with most doing 10.5-11 hrs, so if they are getting up at 9am or 10am, they won't fall to sleep until later in the evening.
If you leave it up to your baby, most babies will start the day between 6am - 7am.
At this time, get them out of bed, expose them to some daylight and noise, offer a milk feeding, ensuring that they STAY awake.
2. Daytime sleep
Don't let your baby oversleep in the day, the little ones can easily get their nights and days mixed up, sleeping all day and partying all night long.
Bedtime will be based off when the last nap of the day was over. So if you have a 4 month old who can only stay awake for 2 hrs and you want a bedtime of 7pm, they can't nap past 5pm, but if you have a 6 month old who can stay awake 4 hrs, and you want at 7pm bedtime, then they should be up by 3pm and so on.
Letting infants nap too late into the afternoon as they get older can cause issues with bedtimes, as they are just not tried enough to fall to sleep and this will result in lots of crying with the smaller babies and lots of delay tactics in the older children - think about it, the average 2 year old can stay awake 5.5-6 hrs post nap ending, so if they are snoozing at daycare until 3pm, they naturally would not be tired until 8.30-9pm.
If you want to have a set bedtime, you need to work backwards by deducting your child's last awake window from this time, to give you the nap cut off time.
I know, I know, you have all heard the old wives tale of never waking a sleep baby, but if you want an earlier bedtime, you would have too!
Changing a routine often takes time, the internal body clock can sometimes take a few days to get into the new routine.
Don't worry if things don't just slot into place on day one of your new goal of bringing your child's bedtime earlier.
It can take around 4-5 days to things to settle down from when you haven made a change AND, you also MUST be consistent with what it is you are doing, otherwise you will all feel like you are all over the place.
Need help figuring out your child's nap time cut off?
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