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Is the actual timing of baby's bedtime important or just consistency?

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  • Is the actual timing of baby's bedtime important or just consistency?

    From what I have read and what I've observed in my child, I think that a fairly early bedtime is essential - both for better success in getting him to sleep (so he's not overtired) and for the sake of his total sleep hours (because his final wake-up time each morning doesn't adjust that greatly, regardless of how the night went). I notice some tired signs in him around 6:30, but my husband doesn't get home from work until at least 6:30 so we had agreed on starting his bedtime routine at 7:30 (asleep by 8/8:30) so they could have some time together.

    My husband is now saying that he thinks a child's bedtime is completely arbitrary and would prefer we choose something like 9:00. Our pediatrician also said she doesn't care when he goes to bed as long as we're consistent. Should I just try to get him to take a 3rd nap at 6:30 and then do a later bedtime? My fear is that this is somehow disrupting his natural rhythm/internal clock and we're artificially keeping him awake when he'd be most inclined to get deep nighttime sleep (in theory, seeing as how he's still waking up every 1-3 hours).

    What bedtimes do you have in place and do you think that specific time is critical or is it an arbitrary choice based on your family's schedule?

  • #2
    I don't know if it's right or wrong, but my LO goes to bed when he's ready. There is just no getting him to sleep until he is good and ready. He used to go to bed between 8 and 9 pm, but then the time changed and he didn't, so now he goes to bed between 9 and 10pm. I do wonder about it sometimes because that is pretty late especially on the nights when he goes to bed at ten. I think it's okay though because he STTN usually and gets about 9 hours of sleep plus he takes 2 naps, so he gets the 10-12 hours of sleep a day that is recommended. So I think it is okay. He is 14 months old. Try the later bedtime and see if he is getting enough sleep. If he seems happy and well rested then I don't think there's anything wrong with going to bed later.

    Good luck!


    • #3
      I started typing and I realized I was going into a mini novel again. So sorry this is so long...

      This is not for everyone and in no way a judgment on what others do, but more what I do and what I have seen others do.

      I practice consistency. I consistently let my child tell me when they are tired.
      Like the other mother posted, I have let my children tell me they are tired. I have never forced sleep or enforced a bed time and have never had trouble with children going to bed or knowing when they are tired. With an infant or toddler you can see the cues that let you know they are tired. The rubbing of eyes, yawning, crankiness. At that age, I would pick my child up and nurse them and rock them and sing to them. Not even say bed time... Just show them that the natural next step was to sleep and that would make them feel better.

      People are shocked when Ronnie says I need a nap or I need to go to bed. They are not used to hearing it from most 3 year olds, but it is the way I have always done things with all of my kids.

      We all get tired at different times and we all have different needs. I don't like being told I have to go to bed at a certain time when I am not tired, I also don't like being told I have to stay awake when I know I need sleep. Forcing a bed time when a child is not ready can sometimes create a traumatic experience and parents end up with that lifetime "normal" bed time battle. Second to that is bath time battle. That one I have had which I brought on myself, a story for another time.

      I know many families who enforce or force bed times and nap times and they have conflict that varies from:

      • Children not sleeping well and laying in bed awake for hours on end so in the end not getting any sleep
      • Some parents who let their children scream and cry for hours because they don't want to go to bed, so they go to sleep disrupted and emotional waking every few hours.
      • Mothers that lock their children in their room for set periods of time, naps or sleep and will not let the children out until the timer goes off or mom feels like they have had enough time.

      I belong to a lot of support groups and I can't help by compare the issues mothers have with sleep. In one group there are several hundred members and there is no enforced bed time, and we see maybe one or two posts a year about issues, usually because the parents are trying to enforce a bed time.

      Then there is another group where there are weekly sometimes daily posts about how my child is not going to bed when I want her to and we are running into problems.

      There are time when at Ronnie's age that they get themselves beyond tired from a long day of play and I will say can you come cuddle with mommy for a bit and I will lay with him in a chair or in a bed and nurse / read a book / listen to a soothing audio cd / or watch a soothing DVD. That will help them wind down and then after they get past the excited feeling he will say, oh I am tired and rest or nap with me.

      It isn't always perfect. We all have days we push ourselves too hard and have trouble sleeping, but as far as going to bed I hear how lucky I am to never had sleep issues with my children, but I don't think it is luck. It is what my Grandparents did with me and it worked so I do it too.

      When we stayed with my Grandmother as older children there was an adjustment period where we were like, OMG we can stay up past 6! Of course we stayed up to gosh awful hours for a few weeks because of the novelty, but once that wore off we would just go to bed because we were tired. We didn't feel like we were missing anything.

      I want to say I also have never heard my children say, I can't wait to grow up so I can stay up late or other thing that is considered an adult activity. I hear that and sometimes get confused that children associate sleep with adult choices, not a necessity of being tired.

      Every parent has to find their own path and some parents / pediatrician swear by a bed time, but I also feed on demand, do not use CIO, and did not use formula, all going against my original pediatricians advice.

      Peace & Blessings,


      Last edited by EcoMaMa; 05-23-2009, 10:33 AM. Reason: spelling error


      • #4
        Second to that is bath time battle. That one I have had which I brought on myself, a story for another time.

        We have a bed time for DS (almost 4) its when he's tired so no battle, with the baby its up to her, she's napping now (it's almost 8pm) and I know one day she'll have a "normal" time but whats the rush?


        • #5
          We have a bedtime for my son (2.5). We are gentle with it though and one or both of us stays with him until he is asleep.

          Really we have a "start the routine" time and he almost always falls asleep at the same time after we start it. But for our family, and our lifestyle, this was sooooo important--for all of us. My husband travels for a living and whenever he was in town (3-4 days in town, 3-4 days out of town), my son would stop sleeping altogether. He'd sleep maybe 3-4 hours each night. Then, we'd all be so tired the next day, we wouldn't be able to plan a special outing with father and son (which was what he really needed). Plus, we were all cranky. So a consistent (but gentle) bedtime saved us all!

          As far as the consistency v. timing question, in my experience, I think it's both. When we weren't consistent, I found my son didn't seem as ready for bed and would stay up MUCH later (but still wake up at the same time--so resulting in less sleep, and we all need sleep to function at our best). The night-time routine reminds him of falling asleep after the chain of events and always makes him drowsy. At the same time, we've adjusted the timing of starting the bedtime routine several times since we've started because he simply has different needs that are always evolving.... I think there is some leeway, but there may be certain windows of time that work better for the little one. We've always looked for signs of tiredness before starting a new bed time, so we're always working within what comes natural to him.

          It' been about a year since we started doing the bedtime thing, and my son always asks to start it now. He usually asks for a "nap" at night-time.

          Really, I think the heart of this issue is watching the child closely for signs of tiredness whether it's a consistent bedtime you are looking for or not. Going to bed when you are tired is for sure the way to go!

          Since your husband was asking about your child staying up it because he wants more time with him? If a later bedtime doesn't work, maybe there is another way for your husband to get a little more time with him--something fun they do in the morning together, an hour or two out without mom on the weekend, etc.


          • #6
            Thanks so much for all the great insight! We will continue to just watch the baby and follow his cues on when he needs to sleep. I'm not sure why I thought I needed to make him adapt to a certain sleep schedule and not the other way around when we don't operate that way on anything else (I feed on demand, etc). We are going to try and be consistent with our routine, but flexible on when that routine happens.

            It sounds like each of your older babies/toddlers have healthy associations with sleep, which is my goal as well!