How To Decide What Time Should Be Bedtime

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What time is bedtime on the Babywise schedule. When to consider it bedtime and when to consider it nap time. Bedtime for babies and toddlers.

Newborn baby sleeping with hat

I get a lot of questions about what time should be considered bedtime. Generally speaking, your bedtime will be after you 7ish PM feeding. There are exceptions for some families. Here are some things to consider when setting your exact bedtime.

Bedtime for Babies

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Last Daytime Feeding. The time of your last feeding. For the baby, bedtime will come shortly after that last feeding.
  • Waketime Length. Amount of waketime length 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 child 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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.

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. Be sure he is getting 10-12 hours of sleep at night.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Naps. If your preschooler 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.

What time is bedtime on the Babywise schedule. When to consider it bedtime and when to consider it nap time.

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:

Reader 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
    May 29, 2008 5:51 PM
    Plowmanators 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.
    May 30, 2008 3:09 PM
  • 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!
    May 29, 2008 10:57 PM
    Plowmanators 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!
    May 30, 2008 3:11 PM
  • 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?
    June 2, 2008 9:44 PM
    Plowmanators 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. 🙂
    June 2, 2008 11:15 PM
  • 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.
    June 15, 2008 4:47 AM
    Plowmanators 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.
    June 16, 2008 10:26 AM
    May said…
    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?
    June 17, 2008 5:23 AM
    Plowmanators 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.
    June 26, 2008 11:05 PM
  • 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!!!
    June 25, 2008 10:12 PM
    Plowmanators 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.
    June 26, 2008 11:09 PM
  • 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.
    July 24, 2008 2:30 PM
    Plowmanators 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 🙂
    July 25, 2008 2:29 PM
  • 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.
    August 22, 2008 1:48 PM
    Plowmanators 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.
    August 28, 2008 7:53 AM
  • 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?
    October 21, 2008 1:53 PM
    Plowmanators 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.
    November 12, 2008 11:33 AM
What time is bedtime on the Babywise schedule. When to consider it bedtime and when to consider it nap time.

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