Do strict bedtime schedules work?



“My baby is so tired around 6:15pm, it is a struggle to keep her awake until her proper 7pm bed time. What should I do?”

If this sounds like you, here’s the thing – I don’t really like really strict schedules. I think that if your baby is tired, she should go to bed.  I know it is pretty crazy, but people who are tired should go to bed.  I think that schedules like a 7 pm bedtime and 7 am wake-up time just stresses parents and isn’t going to help anyone.

Work off wakeful periods

I actually work off what we call “wakeful periods”, which is how long it’s appropriate for your baby to stay awake before she goes back to sleep (depending on age). At the age of about seven months old, a baby should be awake for the last wakeful period of the day. Because they do get longer as the day progresses, from last nap to bedtime should be around 2.5/3 hour mark. If that happens to be at 6:15pm, put her to bed.  She needs to go to sleep, she is clearly tired.   I don’t think anybody should be trying to keep a baby awake to go to bed. I understand that this is something that is out there and a lot of my clients think that bedtime should be 7pm. It is just simply not the case.

Wakeful periods are much more useful to go by. One reason for that is that most babies that have sleep problems are what we would call “alert babies”. When you go to mothers group and you see other babies just falling asleep on the mat, that probably wouldn’t be your baby if you have a child with sleep problems.  Your baby is probably the one at mothers group being like “Yeow! What’s happening? What’s going on? This is a new cafe. I like that sound over there and I am going to hear that dog three suburbs away….” and they are not going to go to sleep just randomly.

Alert babies hide their tired signs. Other babies yawn and grab their ear and grab their eyes and get red eyebrows when it is time for a sleep and your baby probably doesn’t do them until they are super over-tired. If this is your baby, you’re actually much better off going by the wakeful periods rather than the tired signs.

In conclusion, don’t keep your little one awake because of some schedule that you think that you have to stick to.  Just go by their tired signs and their wakeful periods.

Also, at the end of the routine, if she’s waking between 6/7am, it’s not really a big deal. I don’t think that babies should be on timetable routines.


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