An Earlier Bedtime Will *Typically* Get You a Later Start of Day.

I know you're nervous to put your baby to bed early if they're waking early because it seems like it would cause them to wake earlier.

However, this is not typically the case.

Why?

Babies don't typically wake early because they got all of the sleep they need (unless they napped too long during the day). Usually when babies wake early, it's because of over tiredness or hunger. In these cases, an earlier bedtime can help.

Over tiredness is a big cause of early wakings.

When babies are overtired, meaning they were awake too long at some point during the day, an earlier bedtime should help them to reset and therefore helps them to wake later. If your baby is often overtired, one night of an early bedtime may not make a big difference. This means you may need to offer an early bedtime for a week or more to help them cut down on over tiredness and get you the later start of day you desire.

This is why when we drop a nap, bedtime moves earlier. After babies are 6 months old, the last awake window becomes their longest of the day. As we drop naps, we need to help shorten that last awake window to prevent over tiredness by moving bedtime earlier.

It's important to remember that when babies are overtired, their cortisol rises and they often get a ‘second wind' which leads to them ‘looking wide awake' and/or causing them to fight bedtime, which further contributes to their over tiredness and sleep disruptions. We find that parents often think this means that babies need a later bedtime when in reality, that can cause the over tiredness to get worse, starting a cycle of potentially earlier and earlier wakings.

How can we help babies to get out of a cycle of over tiredness?

👩‍🍼Help your baby to sleep at an earlier time to help them cut down on the over tiredness. If your baby is overtired they will likely have trouble falling asleep on their own because of the cortisol their bodies are producing. Expecting them to fall asleep independently while this is going on can cause them to become more overtired. Instead, rock your baby to sleep so they can be asleep within their OWT (this goes for all sleep, not just nighttime!).

We always recommend starting to rock 15 min before the end of their OWT. Of course, you know your baby so you may need to adjust by 5 min to have them asleep within OWT. You will be able to teach self-soothing but we do not recommend working on this when they're in a cycle of over tiredness. Think about it, do you learn best when you're exhausted?

🌅 Offer bedtime as early as 6:30pm (over 13 weeks old) to help cut down that last wake window. This is especially true when we drop a nap, have an early start of day or have short nap(s) during the day. When babies are overtired, it's often because this last wake window is too long. The earliest we want bedtime is 6:30pm but this means asleep by 6:30pm so we want to start rocking earlier, by 6:10 or 6:15. If your baby is overtired, they may need a bit more rocking.

🛌 Add in an ultra-short catnap. (If your baby is under 13 weeks or the last wake window is going to be too long) we want to offer an ultra-short catnap instead of an earlier bedtime. When we add a catnap, it can be as short as 10-15 min so that we don't exceed total daytime sleep for the day. The purpose of the catnap is to reset them so they don't become overtired before bed. When you're offering an ultra-short catnap, it can be helpful to hold them or use the carrier since the nap is so short.

Utilizing an ultra-short catnap can mean that bedtime gets pushed slightly later, which is fine, as long as we don't exceed OWT on either side of the nap!

There are always things we can do to work on your infant's sleep. If you want to learn more about a program that will help you learn to navigate these situations, our Infant Online Program has some AMAZING content to help troubleshoot sleep issues, monthly guides that show you age-appropriate routines (that help naturally lead to sleep), and a simple 3-step method to help you establish & maintain consistent nighttime sleep WITHOUT having to leave your baby to CRY IT OUT and WITHOUT having to “sleep train”… As long as your infant or toddler is still napping, we can help you meet the basic human need of sleep for your family!