Monday, May 7, 2012

Bedtime (a la Lucie's List)

Yes I know, another bedtime blog! I can't help it...seriously there are three things I'm obsessed with right now 1) Max 2) Max (and I) getting sleep and 3) teak furniture.

Anyhow I just got this email from"Lucie's list" and it rings so true for my household. What wears me out are early wakings (ie. day shift at work) but even if I had a crappy night, just waking up later in after 10am...really re-energizes me! Ahhh well, one day it'll happen for me again. Right now Max has a bedtime of 9pm with wind down happening around 815pm. His wake up time is varied between 7am-745am. I know it may be harsh to say but for my sanity's sake, I will not accept a wake time earlier than 7am. That's another can of worms.

Now on to Lucie's email, purely copy and pasted!

"The Experts Say...

According to sleep experts, there IS, in fact, a perfect, naturally occurring bedtime. This time is roughly 7pm. Why 7pm? Research has shown that "heart rate, blood pressure and release of cortisol (a stress-regulated hormone) are all affected in a positive way by an early bedtime."... "although it may seem backward, most children who go to bed late have more night wakings and wake up earlier in the morning", from the book The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.

Says she (just kidding, I actually do like her book a lot).

This 7pm-bedtime situation is all well and good assuming that a good wake-up time for YOU and the rest of your family is about 6am (give or take). Yes, 6am works perfectly for some: for working parents, for parents with other kids who need to be up for school, or just for early risers (or annoying early morning yoga-do'ers). For those people, this bedtime is ideal.

However (ahem), this wakeup time is not desirable for everyone. For some of us, it's just a wee bit too early. But more importantly, it just doesn't work for our family. Here's why.

The Real World

In the real world, it's not just about your baby's needs; it's about aligning your baby's needs with the rest of the family. Compromising. For example, I know TONS of parents who don't stand a chance in hell of getting home from work before 7pm on a regular basis. If those kids went down at 6:30 or 7pm, mommy or daddy (or both) wouldn't see their kid at all before said child goes night-night. As a parent, does that feel wrong to you? It should, because THAT is messed up (yeah, I said it).

My best friend's husband is a surgeon. He gets home at about 7:30pm on a good day. They all have dinner together, then he puts his kids to bed. It's a great way for them to reconnect at the end of a long day. Do they wake up later than most kids? Yes, but they get to see their daddy every day. Everything is a tradeoff.

My own husband doesn't get home until 7pm (or else he gets a flogging). We have dinner right away, then we start Lucie's bedtime routine. She doesn't conk out until about 8:30 (ok, ok, 9) and she wakes up around 7:30 or 8am. Is this what the experts recommend? Nope. But I really don't care because it works for us.

Point being: you have options. If putting your kid to bed in the middle of the afternoon (kidding) works for you and your family, great! And if it doesn't, that's okay too.

Do what works.

The Formula

For those of you who need a later bedtime for whatever reason, here is the formula I use... pick the time that you want to wake up in the morning: 7am? 8am? 9am? Then subtract 11 hours (and starting at 12 months of age, you'll subtract 11.25 hours).

Example: if you want to wake up at 8am, your target "to sleep" time is about 9pm. This does NOT mean that bedtime starts at 9pm, nay. Subtract however long you need for your bedtime routine + time it takes for baby to actually fall asleep, usually at LEAST a half hour. Remember, you want them to be ASLEEP by 9pm (in this example).

**I understand that many of your babes are not yet sleeping through the night. That's okay, they will soon (11 hours, CAN YOU IMAGINE???). Statistically, it happens for most between 4-6 months if it hasn't happened already **

**A four-month old baby needs about 14.5-15 hours of total sleep per day, usually with 3 daytime naps, FYI.

Rinse and Repeat

Once you've picked a bedtime, stick to it! Consistency is really important. I'm not saying you can't have the occasional night where you're out late with babe at dinner or at a holiday or a family gathering, but in general, try to do the best you can. This will establish a clear expectation that bedtime strictly occurs at [X] o'clock and that's what your baby - and later, your toddler - will expect from you each and every night. No haggling or fussing or negotiating.

Creating good bedtime habits now will pay dividends into the future. Promise"


  1. I believe that temperament has a huge role in how your baby sleeps and naps. Which is why one method or one idea does not work for all babies.

    Ben did the classic 45 minute naps and it was painful. I'd get the most rest if we napped together or I would pop in around 40 minute and dream nurse him and get another 45 minute cycle out of the little guy. Never anything more. This was our norm.

    I think sleep is a big thing for first time parents to be obsessed over. It is a huge shock to go from being on your own sleep schedule to have to deal with someone else's sleep.

    Then the next one comes along and they just have to some how fit in the family life that is already existing. While sleep is still a big deal, it just becomes what it is. Plus you learn to adapt to being tired! Even though it still bites to feel tired! It will always truly be something in the sleep department when it comes to children!


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