Get your Babywise bedtime routine down perfectly. How to find the ideal bedtime for your baby, toddler, preschooler, and child.
Bedtime is a vital piece to having a consistent daily schedule. If you want your child to sleep well at night and eventually sleep through the night, you want to have bedtime consistent and timed correctly.
A big part of bedtime is your bedtime routine. The best routine won’t matter if your bedtime is off.
In this post, we will discuss bedtime routine as well as how to find bedtime for each age group.
Babywise Bedtime Routine
You probably wonder what time is actually bedtime on a Babywise schedule. When do you consider it bedtime and when is it still a nap?
The basics of bedtime for a baby are:
- It happens after the 7ish PM feeding (the exact time will vary depending on baby’s schedule).
- It should be at a consistent time day to day.
- It will happen in an eat/wake/sleep cycle just as the rest of the day has. This means evening feeding, bedtime routine, bedtime.
For bedtime, you want your routine to be very similar to your nap routine. Get help setting up your nap routine here.
A dreamfeed or anything later should be considered a night feeding. Sleep that happens before your evening feeding should be considered nap times. The sleep that happens between the evening feeding and the dream feed is night sleep.
Elements of a Bedtime Routine
It is very common for a bedtime routine to be more involved than a nap routine. Here are some key elements to include:
- Diaper change
- Change into pajamas
- Swaddle if baby is still swaddled
- Close blinds
- Turn on white noise
I also highly recommend you include the following:
- Read a story (or a few)
- Sing a lullaby (your baby does not care about singing talent nor lack thereof)
You might also consider bath time in your bedtime routine. I would venture to say most people like to do a bath as part of the bedtime routine. At our house, we always did bath at the first or second wake time of the day.
Just Be Consistent
The key element to your routine is consistency.
Whatever you decide to include in your routine, just make sure it is sustainable. Make sure you can be consistent with it.
It doesn’t have to be the same forever, but it should be consistent most days for the foreseeable future. At some point, you will change elements to it, and that is perfectly fine.
Sample Bedtime Routines
Your Babywise schedule order can get changed up at bedtime with a baby. This is due to a lot of factors as discussed in the Bedtime for Babies section below. Here are a few samples of how your sleep routines might go. Any of these are acceptable.
Diaper and Pajamas
Read a story
Close blinds and turn on white noise. Dim lights.
Hugs and Kisses
Place in bed
Diaper and Pajamas
Read a story
Close blinds and turn on white noise. Dim lights.
Hugs and Kisses
Place in bed
Bedtime for Babies
I get a lot of questions about what time should be considered bedtime for a baby. Generally speaking, your bedtime will be after you 7ish PM feeding.
There are exceptions to the typical for some families. Here are some things to consider when setting your exact bedtime.
Last Daytime Feeding. The time of your last feeding will impact what time is bedtime. For the baby, bedtime will come shortly after that last feeding.
If you feed at 7 PM, then bedtime will happen shortly after that feeding.
Morning Waketime. What is your morning waketime and how long does your baby need to sleep at night?
If your baby wakes at 7 AM and is a 12 hour a night sleeper, you need to have bedtime at 7 PM. If your baby wakes at 7 AM but is a 10 hour sleeper, then bedtime is adjusted accordingly.
Waketime Length. Figure out what amount of waketime length is needed between feeding and bedtime. This will likely depend on the napping situation, or how many naps your child is taking a day.
How many naps does your child have? If your baby is down to two naps and has a liquid feeding at 7 PM, he likely doesn’t need any additional waketime after that feeding.
But if he has an evening nap, he might need a short waketime to be tired enough to go to bed.
Witching Hour. If your baby has witching hour, you might feed right before slipping baby into bed instead of doing an eat/wake/sleep cycle.
If you have a super, super fussy baby in the evening and it seems like someone swapped your baby’s personality at that time of day, be sure to read up on the topic to learn what to do.
Dreamfeed. Bedtime happens before the Dreamfeed. So if you feed at 7 PM, then Dreamfeed at 10 PM, your bedtime would be after your 7 PM feeding.
You would just then wake up your baby, feed him, and put him right back down at the 10 PM feeding.
Cluster Feeding. Many moms find success using cluster feeding as a tool to get baby to sleep through the night. If you cluster feed, choose one to treat as your bedtime feed. If your earlier is your bedtime feed, treat the second one as a dreamfeed. If your second one is the bedtime feed, treat the earlier as a regular daytime feed.
Consistency. In setting your bedtime, make sure it is consistent from day to day almost every day of the week.
Pick a time that you are willing to be home to enforce. Do not say bedtime is 7 PM but then stay out until 9 PM most nights. That sets up unattainable expectations on your baby’s schedule and will leave you frustrated.
With that said, it is vital that you are willing to work with your baby’s needs (assuming you are able to).
Family Dynamics. Consider your family’s situation.
I know moms whose husbands don’t get home until the early evening. Some of those moms have a later bedtime for baby, and consequently a shorter waketime length.
For Brayden’s first year of life, my husband was finishing his last year of college and also working to support our family. He didn’t get home until 8:30 a few nights a week. Brayden’s bedtime was 9:30 so he could have time with his dad.
Once my husband graduated and worked normal business hours, Brayden’s bedtime moved up.
Remember, your schedule serves you. That is the beauty of Baby Wise. Would a 7-8 PM bedtime have been more ideal for baby Brayden? Yes. But even more ideal is a relationship with his father. It is a good/better/best situation and sometimes you set your schedule in a less ideal way to accommodate the family.
Kaitlyn’s bedtime was basically always between 7-7:45 for her baby and toddler life because we don’t have that extenuating need we did with Brayden.
McKenna and Brinley were later risers in the morning so they had later bedtimes, which worked well since we had children with things going on.
Bedtime For Toddlers
Here are some things to consider when setting bedtime for your toddler. You can tweak these same principles outlined above for your toddler.
Night Sleep Length. When setting bedtime for your toddler, be sure he is getting 10-12 hours of sleep at night.
If he wakes at 6 AM, bedtime needs to be 6-8 PM.
Early Enough. Make sure you start your bedtime early enough that he can go to sleep at a good time. Never forget Sleep Begets Sleep and keeping your child up later typically backfires.
Again, staying in your 10-12 hour range will help you find that ideal bedtime for your toddler.
Keep Notes. Adequate sleep is vital for a cooperative, happy toddler.
Take note of your child’s actual bedtime and make sure it is aligning with your optimal bedtime. A lot of times what we think is happening is very different from what is actually happening.
You might think, “Bedtime is 7 PM so I don’t know why he is struggling.” Then you take notes and see you are landing closer to 8 PM every night.
If you are having struggles, take careful notes so you know exactly what is happening.
Consistency. Consistency still matters with toddlers. You can have nights that are different, but try to keep it so 5 of 7 days are a consistent bedtime.
You also do want to keep the bedtime consistent within 30 minutes from day to day in general. You will have nights where you need to be flexible, but aim for consistency to be the norm.
Staying Awake. Sometimes two year olds stay awake long past bedtime. If it happens every once in a while, don’t let it stress you out. If it is every day, evaluate the schedule and see if it needs to change.
Bedtime for Preschoolers
Considerations for preschoolers are very similar to babies and toddlers. Here are some additional thoughts.
It is common for a preschooler to not nap every single day. Some preschoolers are done with naps for good. Here are some tips based on if they have naps or no naps.
Naps. If your preschooler typically still naps but does not take a nap that day, bedtime might need to be moved 30-60 minutes earlier than days she does nap.
No Naps. If your preschooler is no longer naptime, bedtime will likely need to be earlier than it was when she was napping.
If bedtime becomes a constant struggle, evaluate the length of naps and/or if naps still need to happen.
You would think by preschooler age that bedtime would be super simple to navigate. It can have challenges.
Because of that, I have some posts dedicated to preschoolers and bedtime:
Bedtime for Children and Older
By the time your child is in the child age range and older, naps rarely happen if ever.
Bedtime needs to still be early.
Children still need 9-12 hours of sleep throughout their growing up years. The length can vary based on sleep needs, but make sure your child is going to bed at the right time to ensure sleep can happen easily and quickly.
Related Sleep Posts:
- Importance of Consistent Bedtime
- Strategies for Making Bedtime Smoother
- Tips for Finding Your Child’s Ideal Bedtime
- Bedtime Routine: Storytime
- It is Okay If Your Baby Sleeps “Only” 10 Hours at Night
- Day/Night Confusion
- How to Get Your Child to Sleep In Later in the Morning
- How To Solve Your Baby’s Nighttime Sleep Issues
Frequently Asked Bedtime Questions
- Kate said…
Some days my 4 month old doesn’t nap well and by the end of the day she is just exhausted. Her last feeding is at 7:30, so I try to keep her up until that time, but she will be really fussy and sometimes even fall asleep then I wake her at 7:30 to eat. Do you think on those days I could feed her a little early and put her to bed earlier or what would you do? Thanks
Babywise Mom said… Kate,I would feed earlier and put her to bed early. If this starts interfering with your morning waketime, then I would shoot for a nap right before bed instead, but if she will go down early, that is a good idea.
- Jennifer said…
From day 1, my baby’s most awake time has been after 9 pm. She first slept through the night from midnight to 8 am. I know bed time is supposed to be earlier, but when she wakes up for her last feeding, she is WIDE awake (so I’ve never done a dreamfeed). She’s 15 weeks now and I’ve been waking her up at 7:15 am every day for a few weeks and she’s going to sleep around 10 pm now and I still have to wake her up at 7 am. Do you have any suggestions on how to move up her bed time? If I was able to do so, would I add in a dreamfeed? I’d appreciate any suggestions. I love your blog!
Babywise Mom said… Jennifer,Your daughter is at the age the dreamfeed is often dropped, so I wouldn’t add it in. If I were you, I would just put her down 10-15 minutes early for a week and see how it goes. I would then move it up another 15 minutes the next week, etc. until you get bedtime where you want it. If you think you can, you can do the move every 4ish days instead. Just feel it out and see how it goes. Good luck!
- Haley said…
My son is 6 1/2 months old. He has five liquid feedings a day on a combo 3 to 4 hour schedule. He is on a combo schedule because sometimes he is ready to eat at 3 hours and sometimes he doesn’t want to eat yet. We start our day at about 8:30 am so our last feeding ends up being at about 9:30 which means he gets to bed at about 10:30. Is this too late for him to go to bed? I see all these posts about bedtime being at 7 or 8 pm and I just don’t see that happening for us ever. Our schedule works fine for us especially since my husband doesn’t always get home early and wants to play with him before he goes to bed. But I guess I am wondering if I am doing something that I will regret later. Any suggestions or is what I’m doing fine?
Babywise Mom said… Your child is getting 11 hours of sleep, which is in the 10-12 hour goal you want for nighttime sleep. Many people with an earlier bedtime also have an earlier wake time. So their kids are going to bed at say 7:30, and waking at 7 AM. As you drop naps, you will most likely need to move bedtime up a bit earlier. Do what works for your family. 🙂
- May said…
I am always a little confused about bedtime feeding. Should I count the sleeptime starting at the beginning of the last feeding and ending at when he wakes up next morning?Moreover, I wonder about the last feeding time. My son Alex is into his 14th week. His bedtime is around 10pm, now 9:45pm and he generally wakes up around 5am now. He generally woke up from his last nap around 7:30 pm or 8:00pm. That gave me 1.5 to 2 hours before his bedtime. Should I put him to bed sooner? Should I feed him again before his bedtime? If I do not feed him again before his bedtime, he would have 9-10 hours without food.
Babywise Mom said… May, I would feed him around 7:30/8:00 when he wakes, then put him in his PJs and do a bath or whatever it is you do at that time of night, then put him to bed. I would then wake him at 10 PM, feed him, change diaper if needed, then put him right back down. If that seems to overly disrupt him, I would just let him sleep through and see what time he wakes in the night. He is old enough that 9-10 hours without food is just fine for him.
Thank you for the suggestion. Now I have a new problem. I have been feeding him around 8:30 or 9pm, and put him to bed around 9:30pm. Alex kept waking up at 2:30am or 3:30am during last two nights. Seeing him frantically putting his fist into his mouth, I fed him both nights. He ate a lot. But my doctor’s nurse said that since he had been sleeping through night, I should not feed him during the night. Should I just let him cry himself back to sleep around that time? Before this episode, he had been sleeping through the night, albeitly getting up early at 5am sometimes. Could it be my milk supply not enough? Or could it be that I brought him to my mother-in-law’s place for a day, he had too much stimulation?
Babywise Mom said… May, It could be overstimulation. It could also be a growth spurt. I personally don’t like the notion that if they slept through before, they will never be hungry again in the night. Some try to feed their growth spurt in the night. If you think he is hungry, I would try to add feedings in the day, or feed him at night. I wouldn’t ever let a baby go hungry.
- Kate and Robbie said…
I need help. I just found this blog…sent straight from heaven i swear!! I know this post is old…is anyone reading this at all?? Ive just started baby wise…my Dr. strongly disagrees with it for some reason? But we are doing it anyways…My 2 and half month old doesn’t nap very long though out the day with the “3 hour routine”. We notice at night, his first stretch is always the longest…about 4-5 hours. So we have his bed time till about 9:30 (having feeding at 8, bath time, then bed). Is this too late? I read about these Moms who have their kids down at 7 pm, and I wonder how their baby actually makes it through the whole night? Will mine ever? he seems to wake up all the time at night even…with his wakeup times a bit speratic, sometimes 5 or sometimes 6, or sometimes 7? Am I doing something wrong. Help!!!
Babywise Mom said… Kate,Babies that go to bed at 7ish are older than yours OR they go to bed at 7ish but then eat again around 10ish. It takes time, but through consistency and effort, you can do it! Look through this blog at all the posts. Be sure to look at this post: Starting Babywise Late.
- BethL513 said…
I need help with bedtime please! Our 6 week old has been doing great on Babywise since day 1, but after our 4:30pm feeding, things seem to fall apart and change day to day. I nurse and have to supplement after each feeding due to weight gain issues. At 4:30, I nurse on each side and then she takes a 3oz bottle of formula. The last week or so she seems to get hungry again by 6:30 but if I give her 4oz at 4:30, she spits up. She also won’t take a nap after the 4:30 feeding. If she does, she won’t go down again until much later also throwing things off. So, so far it’s working for us to wake up at 4:30, eat twice and then go down at 8ish.At the 6:30 feeding (ideally 7) she takes a 4-5oz. bottle of formula. We then start our nighttime routine of quiet wake time, pajamas or bath, some rocking then to bed by 8.I then wake her up at 10pm and feed her. However, she is VERY sleepy and I can get a full nursing in but she refuses the bottle. When that happens, she’s up at 2 starving and will nurse and take a bottle and then sleep until I wake her at 7:30. if I’m lucky enough to get her to take a bottle at 10pm, she’ll sleep until 4ish, only nurse and then get up at 7:30. My question is, I hate tanking her up in the middle of the night and having 3-7:30 being her long stretch as that’s the feeding we’ll hopefully be elinating soon, so I want her nice and full at 10pm but if I struggle too much to make her take the bottle, it just wakes her up and she’s hard to get back down. Should I continue what I’m doing and let her get full at 2 and reevaluate at 8 weeks or rearrange our afternoons/evenings and try to get her to take a feeding right at bedtime (8ish) and see what happens? I worry that she’ll wake up at 12 and 5 which I’m hesitant about since the 7:30 is working out so well.I wish she would nap from 5:30-7 but she just won’t. She’ll either scream awhile and fall asleep at like 6:15 or she’ll go right down and then not want to sleep until 9:30 or so.Any advice welcome! She’ll be 7 weeks on Monday.
Babywise Mom said… Beth,I would put her to bed earlier. Like 7:30. Then maybe she will have had enough sleep to wake more at 10. She also might just not be one to wake at that time. Kaitlyn wasn’t at that age. She refused to wake. I fed her around 8ish I think then put her to bed and she woke twice in the night. It isn’t ideal, but she slept better that way. I just had to go to bed soon after she did so I could get some sleep 🙂
- The Burkes said…
This blog site is an absolute treasure! Thank you so much for being willing to serve others with your experiences and advice!! I’ve passed it on to several Moms. Our LO is 2 months and is sleeping 10 hours through the night. We started BW from day one. Her dreamfeed is at 10pm and most mornings I have to wake her at 8am. Before the dreamfeed I feed her at 8pm. My question is after we drop the 10pm feeding is 8pm still an acceptable bedtime? During this 8pm time she’d eat, stay awake and then be put down? Is that how bedtime works…or should it be feed at 8pm and put her straight down (like dreamfeed)? I hope I’m clear.
Babywise Mom said… You could do it either way based on what your baby needs. What we did was feed, change into PJs, story, prayer, bed. So, there was waketime but not usually as long as other waketimes.
- Kelly said…
My daughter is 7 1/2 weeks. We’ve been doing BW since birth. She does great except for evenings. Her schedule is 6:30a, 9:30, 12:30 , 3:30, 6, 8:30, 11. She only has 45 min of waketime during the day feedings. After 6 she very rarely naps until 11. I’ve tried feeding every 2 hours, moving the 11:00 up, using a swing, using a pacifier…Occasionally she’ll sleep for an hour somewhere in there but that’s rare. This has made establishing bedtime difficult since she doesn’t really go to sleep until 11. Did either of your children have an evening fussy time? How would you suggest handling it?
Babywise Mom said…
Kelly, Kaitlyn definitely did not have a fussy time. Brayden did until we started BW. I would persevere and keep trying. Try not to stress about it but keep working on it. Hopefully, by now your baby has improved. The first three months are the hardest, so as your baby approaches the 3 month mark, hopefully things are improving.
This post originally appeared on this blog May 2008