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?”
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.
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?
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 Peaceful Nightly Ritual in my Exhausted Mom’s Starter 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.