Many baby books stress the importance of a bedtime routine – and with that I have to agree. I have my own bedtime routine (considerably altered post-babies) and it seems only fair that the children should have one too – it signals to them that the day is over and nighttime has begun.
For us, the bedtime routine is bath, milk, story, bed.
When you bring a newborn home a bedtime routine doesn’t seem terribly important – you’re up at all hours anyway, there is no real difference between night and day. But (hopefully) there will soon be a difference as baby sleeps for longer stretches at night (and eventually really long 10 – 12 hour stretches) and at that point you need to consider – when does nighttime begin?
It might seem a daft question, but if you have a parent(s) who works late, you might be tempted to have a later ‘bedtime’ so that a parent who has not been around during the day can have some special time with baby at night – in our case, this would mean starting bath around 9pm, and nighttime effectively beginning at 10pm.
Well, we tried it. It was ok. Multidaddy was thrilled to see BabyBoy and BabyGirl. But the day was very long, and the babies were cranky and had very disturbed evening sleep. Starting the night at 10pm didn’t mean BabyBoy and BabyGirl slept later in the mornings – it just meant their night was shorter.
Then we moved bathtime to 6pm, giving the signal that nighttime started around 7pm, and the difference was amazing. Firstly, BabyBoy and BabyGirl slept much much better. And secondly, having done bath etc earlier really made me feel that there was a difference between day, evening and night – I’d begun to reclaim my evenings. Once BabyBoy and BabyGirl dropped their dream feed I suddenly had a whole evening ‘baby-free’ and it was like a weight had been lifted.
There is also a third, longer-term reason. Eventually baby will go to school. Schools don’t tend to start at 10am, they start early. So an early bedtime in babyhood sets you up (hopefully) for good solid sleep in childhood, with no need to suddenly switch schedules to fit in some 11 hours of sleep.
It is tough on the working-late parents. So our compromise is to designate the morning ‘Multidaddy playtime’. Everyone is more rested and less likely to be grouchy.
So when is it time for bed? Personally I recommend early evening. Not only are your children likely to sleep better, it will also save your sanity.