How to Know if Your Baby is Going to Bed Too Late

Much like adults, a baby’s bedtime can be a moving target, depending on naps, feeding schedule and any disruptions to routine, etc. But unlike adults, babies need routine to be their best selves (read: sleep through the night so that mom and dad can actually get rest, too). A bedtime that’s too late or too early can mess with baby’s very sensitive body clock, throwing off the next nap or bedtime and leading to a very grumpy baby.

So what’s the magical time your baby should be going to bed? We asked sleep coach Kelly Murray to share her wisdom around the appropriate time for your baby to go down for the night. And how to make that bedtime stick.

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A MamasUncut fan asks:

I’d like some advice on moving my daughter’s bedtime earlier. She’s 8 months old and right now she is sleeping from 9 PM – 5 AM, then wakes for a diaper change & bottle and sleeps until about 7:30am. I’m thankful she’s sleeping through the night but I think 9 PM is too late for her to go to sleep. She seems to get fussy around 6 PM so I think it would be good for her to go down earlier. Ideally, I’d like to move her bedtime up to either 7:30 PM or latest 8 PM. Her internal clock seems to know exactly when it’s time for bed. If we put her down anytime before 9 PM she assumes it’s a nap and will only sleep about an hour. Any ideas on how to make this change easier for her would be appreciated!

Murray says:

That’s a great question! Bedtimes definitely move around quite a bit in baby’s first year, so it’s very normal to reevaluate. Moving her bedtime up will take some time and patience to address, but it is doable. The key is patience — these kinds of changes don’t happen overnight as much as we wish they would! — and willingness to stick to a plan, even if things get tough. If you have anything else going on in your life right now that would make sticking to a new routine hard, such as upcoming travel, a partner who’s doing a lot of traveling, illness, etc., it’s best to wait until things are more stable.

First, I would start by waking your baby 30 minutes earlier in the morning and putting her baby down for the night 30 minutes earlier. For example, instead of letting her wake up naturally at 7:30 AM, I would wake her up at 7:00 AM and put her down for bed at 8:30 PM. Her naps should be moved 30 minutes earlier as well.

Follow that schedule for three nights and then move her entire schedule up by another 30 minutes. Continue to move her schedule up by 30 minutes every 3 days until you reach your desired bedtime. Generally for a baby her age, bedtime should be between 6:30-7:30. Some of this also depends on whether she’s dropped her third nap. If she has, you definitely want a bedtime no later than 7:30 and she should be getting up from nap #2 no later than 4 PM. If she hasn’t dropped the nap, you may need to push bedtime a bit, say 8 PM, until she’s ready to go from three to two naps.

To help your baby adjust to this new schedule, use light as a way to cue her body when it’s time to wake up and time to sleep. When she wakes up in the morning feed her in the brightest area in your house such as by a window or in the bathroom with all the lights turned on. This will tell her body to start her daytime circadian rhythm. Then, an hour before her bedtime, dim the lights and close the blinds, which will send a signal that bedtime is approaching and start her melatonin (sleepy hormones) production.

Be patient during the adjustment phase. Give her body a good two weeks to adjust. Good luck mama. You got this!

About Murray:

Kelly Murray is a certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant who resides in Chicago with her husband, two preschoolers, and fur baby. A lover of coffee, wine, old-school hip-hop and of course sleep! She specializes in helping sleep-deprived families worldwide obtain the restful sleep they so desperately need. Her approach is gentle, non-judgmental and customized to fit the child’s temperament and mom and dad’s parenting style. To learn more or book a free 15-Minute Sleep Evaluation, visit​www.kellymurraysleep.com.

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