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Here's How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Earlier, According To Experts

Because you need all the rest you can get.

As much as you might soak up the moments spent with your beautiful baby during the day, come nighttime, you need time for yourself. That might mean sinking into the sofa to watch TV, sipping some adult beverages, or just having five minutes of peace before crashing for the night. But if your little night owl refuses to fall asleep before you do, you’re going to need some strategies to learn how to get baby to sleep earlier.

While it won’t happen overnight (ha), it is possible to get your sweet babe snoozing earlier, pediatrician Dr. Alison Mitzner, MD, tells Romper in an email. But if you want to move baby’s bedtime up by an hour or more, it’s important to ensure that they still get enough sleep at night. “Sleep is so important for maintaining overall good health for everyone, but especially for children,” says Dr. Mitzner. “It’s key for their development and growth as well as their body’s immunity — it can even help a child maintain a healthy weight and promotes better learning and attention span.” Plus, getting enough sleep can even improve your child’s mood, the SleepFoundation.org reported.

So if you want your little sweetie to go off to Slumberland sooner, these tips can help everyone get the zzz’s they need.

1
Start Slowly
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If you thought that you could cut your baby’s bedtime short one night and have them adapt to their newfound sleep schedule right away, think again. “If you want to have your baby go to bed earlier, you can start to put your child to bed 10-15 minutes earlier each night or over a few nights,” advises Dr. Mitzner. “After a week or so, it will be easier for your child to fall asleep at his regularly scheduled bedtime and that earlier bedtime.” Otherwise, to have your child go to bed an hour earlier right away is a struggle.

2
Watch That Afternoon Nap

They say never to wake a sleeping baby — but you’ll definitely want to stop the zzz’s if you’re planning to push up baby’s bedtime. “Make sure if they are still napping that the last nap doesn’t go too late in the afternoon,” advises Dr. Mitzner. Otherwise, you could run the risk of an unintentional all-nighter — for both you and your baby. To ensure a smooth transition, “Start dinner earlier and your bedtime routine earlier as well,” says Dr. Mitzner. By pushing up your routine, your baby can adapt more easily to the new schedule.

3
Keep It Consistent

All it takes is one late-night Bluey marathon sesh to mess up your hard-won sleep schedule. That’s why, above everything else, consistency is key if you’re going to keep your baby hitting the hay at an earlier time. “Have a consistent bedtime routine and stick with it,” advises Dr. Mitzner. “Stick to the same bedtime routine that your child is used to prior to bed and falling asleep.” And if you put your baby to bed a little later one night, be sure to get right back on track for the next night so that you can restore consistency.

4
Set The Stage For Sleep

If it’s still bright and sunny outside, it’s going to be harder to convince your kid that it’s time for lights out. “Light stimulating our eyes is what signals our brain to wake or sleep, so we need to signal our brains at the ‘right’ time,” Nicole Johnson, a sleep expert and president of The Baby Sleep Site tells Romper in an email. While you can’t create starry night skies outside, you can control how much light enters your baby’s room. Some mommas swear by blackout curtains to help make the room dark and bedtime-ready. Adds Dr. Mitzner: “If you have darkening shades, use them when in the summer hours when it is still light out at bedtime!” A darkened room will hopefully help your baby get ready for bed.

5
Factor In Their Age
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Before you can figure out how to make bedtime start sooner, you’ll need to know how much sleep your baby actually needs. “Younger babies don’t sleep for a very long stretch until around 3 months old, so they tend to have later bedtimes,” says Johnson. “Once a baby is 8-16 weeks old, their nighttime sleep will extend to 11-12 hours and that’s when we can start to have a much earlier bedtime.” For instance, if you are adjusting an older baby’s schedule, you can generally adjust the schedule up to approximately 1-2 hours depending on what time the sun rises, the sun sets, how much sleep your baby needs, and your current schedule.

6
Watch The Wake Times

“One of the best things parents can do to help get their babies to sleep earlier is to be aware of their baby's wake times,” Amy Motroni, a certified pediatric sleep consultant, tells Romper in an email. “Babies can only stay awake for a limited time before they need to sleep again!” Try not to keep your baby up for too long; otherwise, you’ll run the risk of them becoming overtired, which can actually have an adverse effect and cause them to have a tougher time settling down. You can always keep a sleep journal to track your baby’s waking hours and ensure that there’s a good wake/sleep balance.

7
Make A Bedtime Routine

Sure, it’s nice to snuggle with your baby when they’re fresh out of the tub and smell like heaven. But there’s another reason why that bath, book, bedtime routine is so important, points out Chris Norris, a certified sleep science coach and founder at SleepStandards.com: it helps set the stage for sleep. “Parents should set up a routine so the baby knows when it’s bedtime,” he says in an email to Romper. “It would also help to practice sleep hygiene, for instance, make sure that when it’s time to sleep, their bedroom is free from distractions.” You should also make sure that the energy level of the house gets calmer, so that your baby naturally relaxes and knows that sleepy time is near.

8
Set Your Expectations
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Although it would be nice if your newborn could come home from the hospital already knowing the difference from their days and their nights, it’s not going to happen. While you might have a few weeks of sleep exhaustion, it won’t last forever. In fact, it might end sooner than you think, according to Norris. “You can start setting your baby’s nighttime schedule as early as 2 months old,” says Norris. “At 3 to 6 months, your baby’s nap times and bedtimes will most likely fall at the same time you’ve set.”

9
Give Your Baby Time To Adapt

Just because you got your baby to bed a little earlier one night doesn’t mean that they’re automatically going to crave their crib at the same time the next night. So try to have a little patience as you perfect your child’s sleep schedule. “Just as it takes adults a few days to get over sleep problems like jet lag, your baby will need time to get used to it,” neurologist and sleep specialist Dr. Pietro Luca Ratti, MD, PhD, tells Romper in an email. “Your baby might try to protest for the first few nights until they get used to the change.”

While it all depends on how early you set your baby’s bedtime, it is possible to get them into bed sooner. Start slowly, set the stage, and your baby will be soundly snoozing earlier at night — and give you a big break.

Experts:

Dr. Alison Mitzner, MD, pediatrician

Nicole Johnson, International Association of Child Sleep Consultants (IACSC), sleep expert and president of The Baby Sleep Site

Amy Motroni, certified pediatric sleep consultant

Chris Norris, certified sleep science coach and founder at SleepStandards.com

Dr. Pietro Luca Ratti, MD, PhD, neurologist/sleep specialist