Bedtime What Time?

when to put baby to bed?

Before you had kids going to bed was a forgettable event. Now bedtime is a glorious nirvana that you fantasize about throughout the day. Bedtime is also really important to your baby or kid. Bedtime that is too late, unpredictable, or inconsistent can set you up for a long slog of a night. And figuring out when bedtime should be and what it should look like isn’t always easy. Lots of parents seem to be wondering, “What is a normal bedtime?”

Newborn Bedtime

Newborn babies generally have a very late bedtime frustratingly staying awake far past the time where you are actually enjoying their company. It’s not uncommon for newborn babies to have a long period where they are awake and fussy (by which I mean they are all but inconsolable but WILL NOT SLEEP). This is called the witching hour and generally falls anywhere between 6:00 PM – 11:00 PM. And while it can leave the whole household in tears, it’s normal and temporary. The witching hour is also, blessedly, followed by the largest chunk of uninterrupted sleep you are likely to see for the first few months. So if you aren’t going to bed immediately after your newborn baby, you’re missing out.

Other things you probably want to know about newborn babies and bedtime include:


Bedtime is late.

Probably later than you would like. Anywhere between 7:00 PM and 12:00 AM.


Don’t spend 3 hours trying to make bedtime happen.

Trying to get a non-sleeping baby to sleep will leave you both feeling exhausted and resentful. If you’ve been at it for ~30 minutes and it’s not happening then it’s time to graciously accept defeat. Move on to some other soothing activity (warm bath, stroller walk, bouncy seat time) and try again later.


Bedtime may bounce around.

Newborns may not fall asleep consistently at the same time each night. What was their “bedtime” last night may turn into a 20 minute nap tonight. This is frustrating but also inevitable.


Newborn bedtime routine?

Your newborn baby doesn’t require a consistent routine but it certainly won’t hurt.


What does a newborn bedtime routine look like?

Usually it’s pretty simple – a warm bath, infant massage, clean diaper, feed, then soothe to sleep.


Don’t sweat “putting them down awake.”

YES you need to teach your baby to fall asleep on their own and all the baby sleep books you’ve got stacked next to your bed stress the importance of this. However NOW is not the time to worry about this. VERY few newborn babies are able to fall asleep without substantial assistance. So while you are welcome to try putting your baby down awake don’t feel like a failure if it’s not working yet.

Newborn Baby’s Bedtime Ridiculously Late?

Sometimes your newborn baby will stay up college-student late. If your baby goes to bed at 11:00 PM you have a normal newborn baby. If your baby is still awake at 2:00 AM then you have a problem. The MOST COMMON causes of a baby who is awake when the bars close are:

Sleep is Shifted?

Sometimes newborn babies go to bed very late and then sleep very late. For example your baby might be up until 1:00 AM and then (not including night feedings) sleep until noon the next day. Thus you have a baby who is getting a healthy 11 hours of sleep at night but the timing of “night” isn’t lining up with the rest of civilization. How do you fix this? You gradually start waking your baby up earlier in the morning. Wake your baby up 15 minutes earlier every day or so until your baby is waking up closer to 6:00 AM – 7:00 AM. This will slowly shift everything else in his day so that naps and thus bedtime will start to shift earlier too. It will take weeks for everything to get sorted out but it’s definitely worth it.

Early Bedtime is Better

As your baby get’s older (3/4+ months) an early bedtime has multiple benefits.

  • Nobody wants to come over and help you with your fussy baby at 1:00 AM, where plenty of people would love to tickle his cranky toes at 9:00 AM.
  • It creates the opportunity for you to have a bit of free time yourself. In most homes, 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM is known as “happy hour”. Not because everybody has a cocktail in hand (although it’s possible) but because this is the only time of the day that you aren’t running after a little person.
  • Most playgroups/playdates are scheduled on the assumption of baby’s naps occurring at 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM (ish) which will never happen when your baby is sleeping till noon.
  • Having a baby up in the dark and sleeping during the day disrupts some very important chemical processes that are triggered by light, which overtime, will work against you.
  • And as your baby gets older you’ll find he wakes up earlier regardless of when he goes to bed, so maintaining a late bedtime simply results in less sleep overall.

Bedtime for Baby

Once your baby is no longer a newborn (older than 3-4 months) bedtime should no longer be a stressful crapshoot. You may still have a witching hour but hopefully this has shifted earlier and is easier to manage. Other things that are pretty typical for a baby (3 months to 1 year) include:


Bedtime happens at the same time each night.

It might fluctuate by 30-45 minutes but unlike when your baby was a newborn, it should no longer be a complete and total mystery.


Bedtime is earlier.

If your baby is under 6 – 8 months it still might be later (say 9:00 PM) but when they drop the 3rd nap (usually by 9-12 months) bedtime should scoot up towards 7:00 PM and stay there.


You are “defending” bedtime against late naps.

If early evening naps are throwing off bedtime, it’s time to skip them. As your baby gets older a consistent bedtime is more important than napping at 5:00 PM. This may mean you can’t get into the car after 4:00 PM, take an evening walk in the stroller, etc.


You have a consistent routine.

It’s time to get serous about a routine. It should be something you love that you can do without fail every night for the next 3+ years. Boob, bath, books, bed is a classic.


Baby is sleeping in the same place each night.

It doesn’t have to be the same place where they nap but it should be consistent. However it’s OK to have them sleep in one place consistently and then move them into a new place where they’ll sleep consistently. So your 5 month old may still be in a co-sleeper attached to your bed but then move into a crib in their room at 9 months.


You are working towards “put down awake.”

Remember when I said you didn’t need to sweat putting your newborn baby down awake? Well your baby is no longer a newborn, so it’s time to start sweating.

Bedtime for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Your toddler, preschooler, and younger kid should be going to bed between 6:30 PM – 8:00PM, most commonly 7:30PM. Later than that is almost always too late.

Bedtime vs. Sleeptime

Your newborn baby will need to be soothed to sleep. Your older child should be going to sleep on their own. When kids older than 1 are waking up during the night it’s almost always because they aren’t falling to sleep on their own (generally because parents stay and cuddle until they fall asleep and then sneak out). This results in the same problem of night waking that babies have. As delightful as cuddling with your children is, you need to leave before they are totally asleep.

Additionally I want to be clear that we are talking about BEDTIME. This is the time you put your child to bed. The only rule is that they stay in bed. You can’t make an older child sleep (nor can you make them eat or poop FYI). This is why we don’t call it SLEEPTIME. As a parent your job is to give them an age-appropriate bedtime, a soothing consistent bedtime routine, establish the limits (primarily that they stay in bed), and then leave. What they do at that point is up to them.

Does that mean it’s OK for your 2 YO to sit in their bed awake and talking to themselves for 45 minutes? It sure does! If your kid is chronically up for 1+ hours it could mean that bedtime is too early. However I hesitate to suggest this because it is almost NEVER the case (most bedtimes are too late). You can test this theory by temporarily pushing bedtime back – does your child still spend an hour kicking around in there or do they fall asleep quickly? If the latter then perhaps bedtime was too late. Otherwise it may just be that your child needs extra quiet time to settle down at night.

Is this a form of torture? No it isn’t! Learning to entertain themselves, care for their bodies, or (*gasp*) spend a moment of the day without constant stimulation is actually really healthy! As adults, what do you do when you can’t fall asleep? You lie there and think quiet thoughts until you DO fall asleep. Your child is learning to do this too.

Bedtime Sucks?

Once your child is no longer a newborn baby bedtime should be your favorite time of day. LITERALLY. If you and/or your child hate/dread bedtime than something isn’t working and it’s time to fix it. Personally I LOVE bedtime. Kids in jammies are the cutest thing ever. Cuddling and reading books is the best thing in the world. And once they are asleep you get to watch (insert: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, New Girl). What’s not to love?

Anybody else have any bedtime thoughts to share?


  1. Hi Alexis! I read your entire site and followed all of your advice and it worked perfectly for my first baby. Now, on baby number 2 nothing seems to stick. She is 6 months old and has been put to sleep awake from the beginning but from about 4 months on she is terrible. Sometimes she goes to sleep just fine but most the time she screams bloody murder. She is sleeping in a non-moving swing in my room because I’m not keen on putting her in the crib in her brothers room and have her wake him up at night. Because that’s the other thing she sucks at – sleeping through the night. Often she will sleep from 7:3ish to 4ish but many other times she wakes still sometime between 1-3am. I try to get her to cry it off a bit which means letting her cry for up to an hour. This happens at least once a week where she cries in the middle of the night for up to an hour before I give in and feed her. I can’t get her to stay up 3 hours between naps – she is really fussy and cannot make it that long. There is no consistency with her sleeping habits at all so you can basically take everything I have just said with a grain of salt. I’m searching through your site all over again and I do not know what to do. If you have any advice it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  2. Thank you for all you do! So helpful but of course I have questions . My LO is 5 mo next week (but born 2 weeks early). He was sleeping 12 hrs at night (730-730) consistently with usually 1 feeding… Glorious. Naps (usually 3) weren’t great, ranging from 15-60 min with an occasional 90-120 minute. Oh but I long for those days! I used to go by the clock for naps because his cues were hard to read.. Now I go by cues because they are much more obvious (wake times are usually around 1.5 hrs but wake time before bed is more like 3 hrs).. Now that his naps are lengthening to two 1.5-2 hr naps and a catnap (idk if it’s because of age, that he’s waking earlier, or because of a lot more outside time bc of the nice weather)… his nighttime sleep has decreased. He wakes up once to eat (now around 2am vs 4-5 am) and then he’s waking around 5am and I battle trying to get him to go back to sleep (he’s not interested in eating during this second wake up). Should I shorten his naps? Or make bedtime later? Sincerely,

    • Sincerely,
      Blessed but tired mama

      • We went through a period like this. We ended up with an earlier bedtime (5 instead of 6:30). Now that he’s dropped the third nap, It’s usually closer to 4:30 (wakes up once to nurse around 3:30-4:00am). The earlier bedtime resulted in him sleeping in later, so more sleep on both ends.

  3. Hi Alexis I am losing my mind my five month old has gone to bed so great before but I was nursing her to sleep! This is my third and she is my hardest, she had reflux but not sure if it’s an issue any more. I have started to put her down slightly awake to help her learn to deal with her emotions, I start at 7 and have her in bed at 8 but she continues to scream! Even lessened naps to only 2. One at 10 and one at 1. It’s so bad My neighbors have complained she screams so loud, the more she yells the more awake she is. She finally falls asleep around 11-11:30 after singing, rocking, nursing, and sometimes playing. It’s aweful I have no time to my self at all because at the same time I’m trying to get my 7 yr old and my 5 yr old in bed! Please anything that will help me I’m losing it!!
    Thank you Amanda

    • HI Amanda. We are having the same problem. Did you ever fix it the sleeping issue? If so please help me!! Any advice will definitely be appreciated!!

  4. Hi Alexis! I am wondering if you ever subscribe to Weissbluth’s view that a 5:30/6:00 bedtime is appropriate. In his book, he often sites 6-8 pm as the best bedtime for babies, but I used to follow his blog (years ago, don’t think it’s still active), and he pretty much recommended 5:30 bedtime as a solution to most problems. We are on baby #4 (and I’m still scouring sleep sites, so go me!), and trying to figure out…do we just accept the witching hour mayhem and allow baby to stay up until around 8 or try the early bedtime. We have awesome naps, thanks to your swing advice, but got really lazy this time around about bedtime. Basically after doing dinner, homework, baths, etc with everyone else, I can of ran out of steam and let baby nurse on the couch while I watched tv all night :/ Realizing it’s time to make a change or we’ll have a big issue. Unfortunately, since our first few attempts at trying to “do bedtime,” which included removing the soundtracks from my Netflix shows as his sleep cues (kidding…kind of), it has gone terribly. He wakes up from a last nap sometime between 4 and 5, so between 5:30 – 7 seemed like a reasonable thing to try. It’s been a tough few nights of waking every 2 hours (He previously slept thru with 1-2 brief feeds) and up at 5:00 am. of course, he is also getting a tooth and infamously 4 months, so maybe it’s not related at all. Any thoughts? Don’t want to have an early waker on our hands, but he is so overtired from the recent bad night sleep, it’s hard to move away from that early bedtime.

  5. My 11 month old does not want to go to bed beween 7-8pm anymore. she starts to scream until we get her out of bed and wants to play. she used to go to sleep between 7-8pm. what do I do?

    • I am having the exact same problem! my 10 month used to do fine with bedtime routine… play, bath, book, bottle, bed. but now he wants to play and play and play until late and then its even harder getting him to sleep! I feel like I should not give in to his behavior but hate hearing him so upset if hes really not “tired” yet.

  6. Hello,

    I’m very confused as to bedtime for my almost 4 month old. I pick him up from daycare at 4 and get home around 4:30. Most days his last nap ends anywhere between 3 and 4pm. I’m struggling with figuring out when to do a late nap or early bedtime. When I think it’s bedtime, he seems to wake up 2 hours after being put down and when I think it should be a nap, he seems to want to stay alseep and I end up waking him up for fear of too long of a nap before bed. Any suggestions? We are currently putting him down to bed between 8 and 9.

    • I should add he is waking up at 11, 1:30, and 4:30 through the night..

      • We’re the same schedule. Please advise any solution you did. Thank you

        • We ended up going with an early bedtime. He went to bed around 6:00/6:30 from about 4-6 months old. We did CIO at bedtime at 5.5 months and he started consistently waking 2x a night. I had a rule that I would only go in there if he had been sleeping for 3 hours, so i did do a bit of CIO during the night if he woke up quicker than that. He just started sleeping through the night at 9 months! He gradually went to 1 feeding a night and then dropped it.

  7. Hi Alexis,

    I know you’re super busy, which I totally get, but I would love love love to get your input if possible! I am having a really hard time finding ANYthing ANYwhere online (although your site is my favorite I will Google when desperate) about babies having too EARLY a bedtime. I know some parents will want to strangle me for complaining, but my poor husband is so exhausted from getting up at 4am every morning when our 3-month old daughter wakes up (he’s a morning person and I am NOT, although he doesn’t usually get up 4am early). I just want the man to be able to have some down-time at night without sacrificing sleep!
    Anyway, the really awesome part is our girl goes down and sleeps straight through EVERY night and we know how lucky we are for that. But, she goes to bed between 5-6pm every night. And I should add that’s without a sleep routine (though we’d love to do one) or any assistance – she just decides it’s bedtime and she’s out. Her napping is ok, not great – 45-50 minutes (barely out of crap-nap territory) a few times a day, somewhat erratic and always kind of over-tired. So I guess we’re lacking consistency during the day and we’d love to get her sleeping from 6:30-7pm until 5-6am. Do you have ANY ideas?? Or should we just stop looking a gift horse in the mouth?

    • Also, thank you for any help in advance!! 🙂 Shelly

    • Um…yeah kind of thinking you are looking that at that gift horses teeth WAAAY too closely.

      This may be an issue that resolves organically – as baby grows wake times extend and bedtime will shift later. You could try pushing bedtime back a touch – aim for 6:30, see what shakes out. But I wouldn’t get too adventurous about pushing it back at this age. Small tweaks, see what shakes out, adjust strategy.

  8. Hi, we’re back with baby #2. Trying to get her started on the right track this time so we’re not four months in with zero hours of sleep like we were with #1.

    She’s 2-1/2 weeks old so we pretty much are resigned to taking what we can get, especially with a 31-month-old doing his level best to undermine our efforts. She sleeps in good chunks and I’d say she’s meeting her daily sleep requirements.

    For the first week or two she’d be content to lie about in her bouncy, swing, play gym, drift in and out of sleep and alert us if she was dirty or hungry. Now, for about a week she’s required a dark cool quiet room, white noise, sleep sack, her rocking bassinet (this guy:, a pacifier, and a bunch of holding and swaying and shooshing to fall asleep. She’ll refuse the paci unless she’s sufficiently soothed, and pretty much any time she’s awake and not eating, she screams like she’s being tortured.

    Which brings me circuitously back to where you mention soothing non-sleep activities. We’d love to be able to, y’know, put her down awake after she’s fed, changed, burped, etc. and have her contentedly enjoy whatever it is without needing to soothe her all the way to sleep. We’ve had decent luck with the car and stroller the few times we’ve tried, but she HATES the bouncy seat and the swing, and of course it’s December and we have the toddler on a pretty rigid schedule, which limits the amount of in-the-carseat-and-straight-out-the-door at our immediate disposal.

    The screaming is driving us nuts, so perhaps you have a trick or two up your sleeve?

  9. Hi! I had a quick question. I am trying to track my 2 month old’s sleeping routine. And on your website, it states that their bedtime should be about 1 hour after their late afternoon nap. My baby goes down to sleep around 6-7 and doesn’t sleep but for about half an hour. Should we consider this as an afternoon nap and get her once she wakes up to let some time lapse, or do we try to shush her into sleep again?


  10. Hello,

    I really love your articles on baby sleep and you have really lightened a road for me!
    this article confused me a bit as you mention the concept of “bedtime” … what does this mean in terms of newborns?? I mean, If newborns have to sleep every 30 to 45 and this is for the whole day and night, what is really “bedtime ” for a newborn? Is there a difference in the sleeping patterns during night and during the day? .. Also my newborn (1 month in 4 days, but will be 40 weeks corrected age) keeps falling assleep during feedings, so he sleeps for 30 min to 1 hour, then feeds, falls asleep and repeat… now that I am putting your lessons into practice it seems like he is never fully awake .. should I wake him up so he stays awake longer (and hopefully get longer naps?)? Thank you for your help!!

  11. I have identical twin boys who aren’t great nappers or sleepers. They are 10 weeks old but 3weeks corrected. Do I go by their actual or corrected age? We’ve been told milestones should be expected by corrected age but wasn’t sure about this.

  12. Hi Alexis,

    Firstly, thank you SO MUCH for this blog and all of your advice. You helped us navigate the first 2 months with wake times and so we are still alive. I know your are supremely busy and that this is an old post, but I thought I would still try to see if you would reply! (Also, I am SO looking forward to reading your book!)

    So I will start with bedtime for our 9-week old. It used to be 9 PM, but has inched closer to 8:15-8:30 PM. I feel this is correct because our daughter will sleep about 5 hours. She’ll wake between 1-2 AM, feed, then take 1-1.5 hours to go back to sleep (in her crib no less). She’ll wake again around 5-6 AM, and then I bring her to cosleep with us until roughly 8:30-9 AM. She gets her pacifier at that waking and is a champ about falling back to sleep. The rest of the day, her wake time is about 1.5 hours. Her naps are all over the place in length, but I have read on your blog that this is normal and fine at this age. Great. Everything is great until we get to the last nap of the day and the 2 hours preceding bedtime.

    She wants to go to sleep so badly, but I know this will destroy bedtime so I keep her up. The result is that she is super cranky (ie screaming) during the time when I am making/eating dinner. Sometimes she is so overtired that she will not nurse before bedtime (our routine being bath-boob-bed). I don’t think this constitutes an actual “witching hour” (so does she not have one?) If I give her the pacifier, she will literally fall asleep in her pack n’play and also ruin her sleep balloon (love that analogy btw).

    I am very reluctant to push her bedtime earlier for a couple of reasons:
    1) I will get less sleep! This is really the primary reason…
    2) Her dad won’t get to spend time with her (he works til 7).
    My ideal bedtime is 8 PM and that works perfectly for our family.

    Do you (or anyone else reading this) believe that is my solution–an earlier bedtime? OR is it fine to have her get overtired and I should just deal with it?

  13. Hi Alexis,

    You mention in this post that bedtime should be enjoyed by parents and baby, and we are struggling to make that happen for our 4-month-old. We’ve been following the Weissbluth method for a month now, and our little girl protest cries for at least 15 mins and on average 30 mins before every nap and bedtime. She babbles loudly through singing and book-reading during her sleep routine and then tenses her body up as we try to cuddle and rock her a bit before putting her down. Then she either hangs out for a bit and then protest cries or it’s just straight into protest crying. None of her behavior changes when we adjust bedtime or nap times. It’s always a struggle. She’s always happy when we get her after she wakes up, and she’s sleeping about 14 hours per day total, so I don’t think we’re causing permanent damage, but I can’t imagine it’s good for her to fuss so much. The only time she fusses otherwise is when she’s hungry, so generally she’s a pretty happy baby. And other than during her sleep routine, she LOVES cuddles and rocking. Are we doing something wrong?



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