When bedtime rolls around it signals the end of a wonderfully busy day for both mother and baby, and most likely a welcome break for parents everywhere. We’ve all had ‘those days’ where we were watching the clock, counting down the moments until you can kiss them goodnight and your day can finally start. An evening where you are not on call, you can shower or eat and drink wine in peace. Parental benefits aside, it’s actually essential for your child as well.
Overtiredness at bedtime can cause issues settling to bed, frequent waking between 7pm-12am and early morning waking. It is a misconception that a later bedtime translates to a later wake up time in the morning; in fact quite the opposite is true. All babies, toddlers and children alike can suffer with behavioural issues, mood swings, food refusal and tantrums if they are not getting the right amount of sleep. Most children need between 11-12 hours so setting the right bedtime is crucial in ensuring that they get the rest they need.
At Baby Tech Support it should come as no surprise that we are militant about bedtime! We think that all parents deserve and need time without their children. We want to make sure that every child has a consistent bedtime so that a full night’s sleep will follow. Here are our top tips for bedtime:
1. What time is bedtime? How do you know what time is the right time? Overtiredness at bedtime can cause issues settling to bed and frequent waking between 7pm-12am so it is essential that you choose the right time for your baby. For newborn babies, over tiredness is often the biggest barrier to settling to sleep at bedtime with parents often up and down resettling or ‘cluster’ feeding to get their baby to sleep. So for babies under 1 we recommend a bedtime of 6.30pm and for those under 3 months as early as 6.15pm. For children over 1 we recommend that they go to bed closer to 6.45pm. And for those over 2 – 5 years we recommend 7pm. For those over 5 years add 10-15 minutes for each year.
2. The perfect bedtime routine. Ideally the bedtime routine should start around 1 hour before bedtime with a bath/wash, getting dressed into PJs, milk, brushing teeth and a story. Avoid the use of any screens between 6pm-7pm as this can over stimulate a child before bedtime. Keep things calm and dim the lights where possible, as this will help the production of melatonin (which aids sleep) and reduce the production of cortisol (which is a barrier to sleep particularly in the early hours).
3. Your schedule and routine. Having a consistent bedtime and routine can be really beneficial to your child however it is vital that it works with the rest of the daytime routine. As a general rule, a child’s day should be split between 11-12 hours for their day and 12-13 hours for their nighttime. If your baby isn’t waking until 8am then you will struggle to fit in all of the milk feeds, meals and naps that they need in order to sleep though the night if their bedtime is 6.30/7pm. So aim for a bedtime roughly 11/12 hours from their morning waking time.
4. The timing of their last nap. For babies under 2 (and some older) they are likely having good quality daytime naps so it will largely depend on whether they slept well during their last nap. If they woke early, you may need to bring bedtime forward by 15 minutes to ensure that they don’t get overtired. For babies under 3 months we recommend that their last nap finish 1.5-2 hours before bedtime, for older babies between 3-4 hours. A nap past 5pm is a big no no so plan naps carefully so their daytime sleep doesn’t have an impact on nighttime sleep.
5. Special circumstances. Maybe you are a working parent and need to push bedtime back to ensure that they are able to have a bath, milk and spend time with you. Maybe you have a family event or day trip whereby you need to push bedtime later. We help our customers find the right balance and set up their daytime routine so that a later bedtime doesn’t cause issues.
Establishing the right bedtime is so important in preventing overtiredness. We’ve talked about it before, overtiredness can be the root cause of all sleep issues. If baby is too late to bed overtiredness can cause issues settling to bed, frequent waking between 7pm-12am and early morning waking. If you put your baby to bed too early then they will not be tired enough to settle to sleep and it can also mean that your baby is waking early in the morning completely well rested, but far too early.
There is a balance and finding the right time will vary by day and by the individual baby but it can mean the difference between a full night’s sleep for everyone and waking at night so it’s worth taking the time to get it right!
Gemma at Baby Tech Support
8th April 2016