How Can I Move Bedtime Earlier for My 3 Month Old Baby?

 

 

I was recently asked how to move bedtime earlier for a 3 month old baby. The email said:

“My 3 month old is going to sleep the same time I do – around 10:30pm. Her first stretch of sleep is between 3 – 4 hours, so that’s the best sleep I get too.

I want to move her bedtime earlier to a more sensible hour (7-8pm) but am worried I’ll be losing out on the only decent sleep I get. Usually after her first wake up, she’s up every 2 hours.

How much sleep does a 3 month old need? And do you have any advice on how best to move her bedtime up and increase the hours of sleep in between feedings?”

 

RELATED: 3 month old not sleeping well? Read this guide! 

 

 

6 Tips for Moving Bedtime Earlier for Your 3 Month Old Baby (this works for ALL ages!)

 

 

Tip #1: Know the Ideal Bedtime for 3 Month Olds

 

Bedtime for the newborn is typically late (11 pm or so) and naturally moves earlier throughout baby’s first year. 

An ideal bedtime for a 3 month old baby is between 7:30 – 9:30 pm. This is based both on the developing circadian rhythm (or body clock) of a 3 month old and also fits in with the 9 – 11 hours of nighttime sleep needed.

 

RELATED: Easy Sleep Schedule for Your 3 Month Old

 

 

Tip #2: How Much Sleep Does a 3 Month Old Need? 

 

Many parents ask me “How much sleep does a 3 month old need?” When tweaking your 3 month old’s sleep schedule, it’s important to pay attention to the big picture and how much overall sleep your baby needs in a day.

A 3 month old baby should sleep 9-11 hours at night. (This isn’t 9-11 hours straight. Most 3 month old babies need a few night feeds.) This is why you don’t really want a 7 pm bedtime. Otherwise, your baby may start waking around 4-5 am everyday! 

Your 3 month old baby needs 2.5 – 4 hours of napping everyday (this is the combined total of all naps.)

In a 24-hour day, your 3 month old should sleep 13-16 hours total.

 

 

Tip # 3: When Moving Bedtime… Easy Does It

 

Many parents get stuck with late bedtimes, desperate to move it earlier but unsure of how to do so. The last thing you want to do is make things worse!

When adjusting bedtime, I always recommend an “Easy Does It” approach. I recommend that you work on moving bedtime earlier by just 15-20 minutes every 2-3 days.

Sounds easy enough, right? 

 

RELATED: How To Help Your 2 Month Old Baby Sleep Well

 

 

Tip # 4: Keep an Eye on Baby’s Awake Times

 

To make sure your baby is tired enough for each “new” bedtime, you’ll need to look at the big picture of your 3 month old’s sleep schedule. Specifically, keep an eye on baby’s awake times. “Awake times” are simply the periods of time that your baby is awake throughout the day. (For example, in between naps.)

If the awake times are too short, your baby may not be tired enough and ready for sleep.

If awake times are too long, your baby may become overtired / overstimulated.

This causes your baby’s body to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, to keep baby awake and focused. Once these hormones are released, it’s very hard for baby to relax and fall asleep. (This is the reason why many children fight sleep at bedtime.)

Make sure to pay close attention to the last awake time of the day (between the last nap and bedtime.) With a 3 month old baby, you want to aim for 1 – 2 hours max of awake time before each “new bedtime.”

(All babies vary a bit with the ideal awake time, but that’s the average range for the last awake time of the day for a 3 month old.)

 

Awake times for all ages are:

  • Newborn: 30-90 mins

 

  • 7-15 weeks: 1-2 hours

 

  • 4-5 months: 1.5-2.5 hours

 

  • 6-8 months: 2-3 hours

 

  • 9-12 months: 2.5-3.5 hours

 

  • Toddler taking 2 naps: 3-4 hours

 

  • Toddler taking 1 nap 4-5.5 hours

 

Tip # 5: Go for a Walk

 

Another helpful tip is to get your baby outside every afternoon for a change of scenery. Fresh air, natural light and outdoor stimulation help babies wind down for bedtime.

Plus, a walk around the neighborhood can clear your head and help you relax, too. 

 

 

 

Tip # 6: Begin a Peaceful Nightly Ritual

 

3 months is the perfect age to begin a bedtime routine, or as I like to call it a “Peaceful Nightly Ritual.”

The purpose of this calming ritual is to relax your baby so that she can welcome sleep easily. Doing the same calming activities, at the right time and in the right order helps your baby’s body learn to fall asleep easily at bedtime.

Plus, recent research suggests that children who start bedtime routines before 12 months tend to have better sleep outcomes as preschoolers: They fall asleep more quickly, and get more sleep overall.

You can get my step-by-step guide on creating your perfect Peaceful Nightly Ritual here in my Exhausted Mom’s Survival Kit.

 

Bonus Tip: How To Get More Sleep at Night

Another concern parents have is how to increase their hours of sleep at night in between feedings. (Especially if your baby is waking every 2 hours at night to feed.)

Here’s my Weaning Night Feedings Guide. This guide walks you step-by-step through weaning off night feeds (for older babies) or reducing baby’s night feeds (perfect for 3 month old babies.)

 

These tips on moving baby’s bedtime earlier can be used for any age:

  • Know your baby’s ideal bedtime.
  • When moving your baby or toddler’s bedtime, adjust it by 15-20 minutes every 2-3 days.
  • Keep an eye on awake times during the day.
  • Get outside during the day to blow off some steam (for mom & baby…)
  • Start a Peaceful Nightly Ritual every evening.

 

 

 

Let’s stay connected!

17 Comments

  1. Aleksandra

    Hey Jilly, thank you for your great and helpful blogs! I am trying to move a bedtime of my 3-months old boy from 12 a.m. to 9 p.m. Do I have to move the whole daily routine for 15-20 min or just a bedtime?

    Reply
    • Leena

      Hi Aleksandra! We recommend moving the entire schedule with 15 mins 🙂 You could also schedule the last awake time to be the longest, following the proper awake times (1-2h) for your LO will help you the most 🙂 / Leena, BSMS Support Team

      Reply
  2. Kierstin

    Hi my baby is 3 months old and she was sleeping through the night.. now she hasn’t been. She wakes up random times 2, 3,4 am sometimes 5 am.

    How do I get her to sleep till morning? With out middle do the night feedings ?

    Reply
  3. Jennifer Minor

    My DS is 3 months old and I cannot get him to bed before 11pm to save my life. My older son who is 3 goes to bed around 830, so I typically start DS bedtime routine after we get older brother down. Our routine is bath or warm wash cloth bird bath, fresh diaper, pjs, swaddle (arms out), and nurse. I do this in the living room where we have typically one light on and TV going. Once asleep on breast I take him to his room where it’s dark and place him in his rock n play. I’d say 95% of the time he wakes up starts fussing. We have begun to let him cry for 10 minutes. He typically will keep crying so I go in to nurse off other breast. Bedtime routine can last until 11pm bc he uses me as a paci. Ideally I’d like him to go to bed when big brother goes to bed. But I’m stumped as to why he’s so unsettled at night.

    During the week I wake him at 815 to get brother to preschool. And we come home, nurse and back to sleep he goes for 1.5-2 hours. About an hour to 1.5 hours after each nap he goes back down. Typically 3-4 naps a day equalling 4-5 hours. He does take a late nap around 430 or 5pm and will sleep until 630 or 7pm. What am I doing wrong?

    Reply
    • Jilly Blankenship

      Hi Jennifer,

      You’re not doing anything wrong! But there are things we can do.

      I wouldn’t let him nap more than 4 hours total in a day. Otherwise this will steal from his night sleep and push bedtime later.

      So let him fall asleep around 430-5 pm BUT wake him after one hour. This will help bedtime move earlier.

      Also, it’s time to move his bedtime routine into his bedroom. This article walks you through what to do: https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/how-to-start-bedtime-routine-baby-toddler-2

      Limiting naps and starting a consistent bedtime routine should help bedtime move earlier.

      All the best,
      Jilly

      Reply
    • Kylie Burgess

      Well your babies nap schedule. You want baby to go to sleep after only being awake 1 hour after a long nap. Also try feeding in the room baby sleeps rather than room with tv. I have only light from white noise machine so not a lot of stimulation in room. Finally baby might not be comfortable being in room by themselves if you always put them down when they are asleep. They wake up not sure where they are and freak out.

      Reply
      • Judy

        Hi! My 3 month old was sleeping well and took 2 naps in the day. The morning one was maybe 45 minutes and then he’d take 3-4 hours in the afternoon. He hit a growth spurt a week ago and ever since then refuses to nap unless he happens to fall asleep nursing or on a walk and then only for 15-45 minutes. He still sleeps well at night and goes to bed around 8:30pm. How do I get him to nap again??

        Reply
        • Leena

          Hi Judy! Thank you for your comment! Poor thing, when there is a sudden change in sleep, it is often a sign of a sleep regression. There are big developmental changes that happen around the 4 month and show as sleep disturbance. Jilly has a great guide on this, I would suggest implementing the tips consistently for 1-2 weeks and there should be improvements.

          You can access the guide here: https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/4-month-sleep-regression-tips-video

          Hope this helps! / Leena, BSMS Support Team

          Reply
  4. Angel

    My daughter is 3 months and doesn’t fall asleep until about 2-5am. She sleeps about 12 hours once she does finally fall asleep and would sleep longer if I let her. After she wakes up she typically takes 3-4 naps about every two hours. She is exclusively breastfed and we cosleep. Someone please help me get her to sleep at a decent time.

    Reply
    • Jilly Blankenship

      Hi Angel,

      I’ve helped many parents through this transition. What you need to do is wake your baby 30 mins earlier every day.

      So if she naturally wakes at 3 pm, for example, wake her tomorrow at 2:30 pm. The next day 2 pm. Then 1:30 pm. Do this until you get to an acceptable hour, like 8-9 am.

      As you do this transition, you need to move naps and bedtime earlier by 30 mins as well.

      She will probably be a bit grumpy and not want to wake earlier, but this is a very gradual shift.

      Get her OUTSIDE in the sunlight and fresh air in the morning soon after you wake her. You can just step outside for 5 mins. This helps set her body clock to wake earlier.

      This transition CAN be done, you just have to be dedicated and consistent.

      Good luck!
      Jilly

      Reply
      • Cami

        Hi there, my 3 month old daughter has her long stretch of sleep from about 7pm-12am, and then she wakes up every 2 hours through the night for feedings. Is there a way i could shift her sleep to align with my sleep ideally 12am to 7pm (if she must only have 5hours) or is that really unhealthy for a child to sleep that late? Is it better to work on extending her length of sleep instead i.e. sleep from say 9pm – 7am.

        Reply
        • Cami

          Thank you by the way!! 😄

          Reply
          • Alyssa Taft

            You are so welcome! 🙂 Alyssa, BSMS Support Team

        • Alyssa Taft

          Hello Cami! Congrats on your LO 🙂 Most babies do better with earlier bedtimes. It has actually very common for LO’s at this age to have a longer stretch, followed by shorter stints during the early hours. Babies are often ready to start sleeping longer stretches around 5/6 months of age when they are developmentally ready to self-soothe. Check out our 3 month old sleep guide for more helpful tips and awake time recommendations. Following awake times for naps is really important because it can help to prevent a ton of night wakings. My second daughter is 4 months. I have found it helpful to go to bed early myself (like 8pm!) so I can get a good long stretch since she is still up during the early hours too. I sleep trained my first daughter at 6 months and she has been sleeping 11-12 hours straight ever since and she is 2.5 years old, so I promise, better sleep is around the corner!! Just try and rest now when you can! Alyssa, BSMS Support Team

          https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/3-month-old-sleep-schedule

          Reply
    • Isabella

      Hey Jilly,

      My 3 mo only settles for the night after midnight. Her bedtime routin starts between 7h30pm and 8h30pm. So everyday I put her down asleep around 9h30pm but she only sleeps for 30min and stay awake until after midnight when she sleeps her first good stretch which is around 4 to 5 hours.

      How can I make her sleep the good stretch from 9h30pm instead of midnight?

      Usually she wakes up around 9am and has around 3 to 4 naps during the day being the last one around 6h30pm and most of the times for just for half an hour.

      Reply

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