In the majority of cases, a baby’s biological clock is preset for an early bedtime. When parents adhere to what nature is telling us, a baby falls asleep more easily and stays asleep more peacefully. Most babies are primed to go to sleep for the night as early as 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. Following this simple guideline, we can avoid what we call the dreaded “bewitching hour.” A period during the evening hours when baby gets fussy, whiny and out of sorts. A period of time when both parents look at each other and simultaneously say, “What were we thinking with this baby thing.” In reality, this is simply a sign of over-tired babies longing for sleep.
It’s also important to adhere to this baby sleeping basic – Early to bed does not mean early to rise! Most babies sleep longer with an earlier bedtime. Don’t be afraid to put your baby to bed early thinking you will face a 5 a.m. wake up call. More often, a late night is followed by an early morning awakening.
It can take some experimentation to find your babies’ best bedtime and you can approach this adjustment in one of two ways:
- Adjust your baby’s bedtime to be earlier by 15-30 minutes every 2 or 3 nights. Pay attention to how easily your baby falls asleep as well as his awakening time and mood to gauge the effectiveness of the changes until you settle on the best bedtime. Or…
- Beginning at around 6:30 p.m., watch your baby closely. As soon as he exhibits any signs of tiredness (fussing, losing interest in toys, looking glazed, yawning) put him right to bed, even if his previous bedtime has been 11:00 p.m. When you do this, keep your home quiet and the baby’s room dark so that it resembles his usual environment in the middle of the night. Your baby may think he’s going down for a nap, and awaken after a short snooze. If he does, respond quickly so that he doesn’t fully awaken. Follow your usual method for helping him fall back asleep, such as rocking or nursing; remembering to keep the room dark and quiet as you do during the middle of the night.
It may take a week or more of adjustment to settle into a new bedtime, but once you do, you’ll find that both you and your baby are happier!