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

I was recently asked in my Q+A Email Group about moving bedtime earlier for a 3 month-old baby.

Her mom, Erin wrote:

“My 3 month old is going to sleep the same time I do – around 10:30pm.

Her first stretch of sleep is between 3-4.5 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.

Any advice on how best to move her bedtime up and also how to go about increasing the hours of sleep in between feedings?”

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

Tip #1: Know Your Baby’s Ideal Bedtime

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

[Check out my Ideal Bedtime Guide for all ages on Pinterest!]

An ideal bedtime for a 3 month-old baby is between 8 – 9 pm. This is based both on the developing circadian rhythm (or body clock) of a 3 month-old and also fits in with the 10 – 11 hours of nighttime sleep needed. 

So the first thing I shared with Erin is what bedtime is most appropriate for a 3 month-old baby. She wasn’t far off, but 7 pm is a bit too early.

Tip # 2: When Moving Bedtime… Easy Does It

Like Erin, sometimes we parents get stuck in a late bedtime pattern, 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.

What I suggested to Erin was that she work on moving bedtime earlier by just 15-20 minutes every 2-3 days.

Sounds easy enough, right? 

how to get baby to sleep earlier tips

Tip # 3: Keep an Eye on Baby’s Awake Times

To make sure that your baby is good and tired for each “new” bedtime, you also have to 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.)

Specifically, I advised Erin to pay close attention to the last awake time of the day (between last nap and bedtime.)

With a 3 month-old baby, you want to aim for 1 hr 45 mins – 2.5 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 # 4: Go for a Walk

Another helpful tip is to get your baby outside every afternoon for some natural stimulation. This really helps babies wind down for bedtime.

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

Tip # 5: 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 check out the basics of beginning a bedtime routine here or get a step-by-step guide on creating your perfect Peaceful Nightly Ritual in my Exhausted Mom’s Survival Kit.

Bonus Tip: How To Get More Sleep at Night

So that advice helped Erin know how to move her 3 month-old baby’s bedtime earlier.

But her other concern was how she could increase her hours of sleep at night in between feedings. (Her baby was waking every 2 hours at night to feed.)

I shared my Weaning Night Feedings Guide with Erin. 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.)

Once Erin weans her baby down to 1-2 quick night feeds, she’ll get longer stretches of sleep each night. Then she’ll feel like….

The basic outline of my advice 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 those 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
How to move baby's bedtime earlier for 3 month old tips