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Fixed bedtime: necessary?

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  • Fixed bedtime: necessary?

    We have a 4 month old and she is a high need baby that does not sleep as long as the avg baby. She takes 1-2 very short naps during the day. We have been taking her to bed with us around 9PM and getting her to sleep by about 10PM. After talking with lots of parents and reading about a "bedtime routine" we changed. We heard that babies her age should be going to sleep by 7:30-8:30PM. So we have tried this for the past week and it fails miserably. She is just not tired and when she is clearly tired, she just does not want to sleep unless we are there with her. Rarely we get her to sleep and can sneak off (naps and night time). She wakes within 30-45 minutes though.

    Our nighttime routine is to change her, read a story, pray and sing a song. This takes about 15-20 minutes. Not once has this ever calmed her down actually. She seems just as alert and awake as before. I always have to nurse her to sleep after that too.

    My questions are this: Do we really need to get her to sleep at 8ish PM for her well being or can she go to sleep later like we were doing? On the flip side, we like the idea of her going to sleep at 8PM though so we can have our time alone without her until 10PM. Do other API parents get their babies to sleep and then sneak off to have some quiet time before our bed time at around 10PM or do we just have to go to bed with her every night? My frustration is in not knowing if we are doing this right.

  • #2
    Hi Joy, My daughter is 19 months and was very similar to your daughter at that age. We tried for an earlier bedtime around 4 months and it didn't work for us either. For many months I would just go to bed when she did and stay with her. I couldn't sneak away without her waking immediately. I got a LOT of rest for a while. Actually, we're still doing pretty much the same but now her wake-ups are more consistent. Usually she wakes up 30 minutes after she goes to sleep and then again in 1-2 hours. I turn the baby monitor on and have a little time with my husband or time to get stuff done around the house (quietly!) and then run back in when it's time or if she wakes earlier.

    Another thing, I think a regular bedtime is ideal for most people (babies or adults) but it doesn't seem to work for everyone. For example, my daughter doesn't nap for the same length of time every day. So, we have never been able to have a fixed bedtime because if she naps longer she just isn't tired or vice versa. But what is pretty consistent is the length of time she's awake. For example, now that she's older she's up 4-4.5 hours before her nap and then 6-6.5 hours before bed. Then, she's usually in bed for 11-12 hours at night. So, there is routine and ritual but it's quite flexible. That's seems to be just the way she's programmed.

    Good luck! It sounds like you're doing just what your little one needs.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Joy Stevens View Post
      My frustration is in not knowing if we are doing this right.
      I don't think there is a 'right' way. It sounds like you have a rhythm that works for you and your baby and everyone is comfortable. Nighttime routines can take a long time to "settle", so don't worry just yet if you're not where you want to be with it. We didn't even try to get into a regular nighttime routine until each of our kids were 4-6 months old, and even then it took months before we found our rhythm.

      So if what you're doing is working for you right now, stick with it. Trust your instincts and you'll know when it's time to change things up!


      • #4
        Our son is very high needs and reading your post brought me right back to those early days - we had many of the same struggles around sleep. It took us a very long time to get him to start going to bed before us so that we could have some of that private time. What ended up helping us was not so much a night routine (though we do have one), but a better day time routine. When his daytime routine gets messed up, his nighttime routine gets messed up - regardless of how much sleep he has or has not had. If his daytime routine remains the same, we can now get him to bed (he's 15 months now) around 7:30/8:00. However, this only started when he was just under a year, so for the first year we really struggled with the same things you're doing.

        At the time, though, we sort of gave in and just let our son go to bed at the same time we did - it did seem to contradict what people told us about having an earlier bedtime, but we were frustrated by two hours of fighting him to get to sleep, so in the end we let him stay up and go to bed with us. There were times he would get overtired and cranky, but in general, he just seemed to need less sleep than we thought he did.

        Good luck!