When I was pregnant with my daughter I spent time thinking about what kind of parent I would be. One thing I remember thinking is, “why do some parents put their kids to be so early?” The next thought that followed was, “I’m not going to be one of those parents.” Fast forward to when my beautiful baby girl Lillian was born. The first several months of her life my husband and I followed her lead, we fed on demand, and soothed her to sleep when she was showing signs of getting tired. Around 4 months of age her sleep habits changed drastically, one of the changes I remember well was that she became very fussy in the evening hours. At that time I was back at work, so I wanted to spend time with her in the evening, and was aiming to have her asleep by 9:00 or 9:30. I began paying more attention to her behaviors in the evening, and I noticed she was clearly tired!
Around this same time my husband and I began working with a child sleep consultant. Part of the sleep plan she gave us included a much earlier bedtime. Depending on how her naps were that day, we were to aim for her to be asleep by 7:00 or 7:30. I thought “oh no, we are turning into the early bedtime parents!” Lillian’s sleep was so terrible, that we were willing to try anything! Low and behold after a few rough nights, Lillian began going to bed with no tears and sleeping SO much better!
After our work with the sleep consultant I kept researching and learning as much as I could about infant and child sleep. I found it to be fascinating, which started my journey to becoming a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant myself! Combining personal experience, and the science of child sleep I want to share with you the magical things that come from an early bedtime!
1) There is a phrase I want you to remember, “sleep begets sleep.” The more sleep your child gets, the better he or she will sleep! So, for all of you out there who fear an early bedtime thinking it will cause your child to wake up earlier in the morning...it’s not true!
2) The end to evening crankiness! Once your child get’s into that territory of melting down in the evening, he or she is overtired and would benefit from an earlier bedtime.
3) Less bedtime battles! If your child is going down for bed earlier, they won’t be overtired which means they won’t fight their sleep as much! Biologically speaking, once a child has gotten to the overtired point their body produces a hormone called Cortisol which gives them a boost of energy and makes falling asleep harder.
4) The end of early morning wake ups! Remember my first point was “sleep begets sleep?” Another part to this is, if your child is going to bed earlier, it will likely help them sleep longer in the morning. Crazy right?! A common cause of early morning wake ups (anything before 5:30 am) is a child being overtired.
5) Less night wakings! I think you’re starting to see the trend here. The earlier your child goes to bed the better they will sleep...which means less middle of the night wakings! I’m telling you it’s magical!
6) More adult time!! Yes, there are SO many benefits to your child by putting them to bed earlier, but also for you! Looking back to when we first started implementing an earlier bedtime for Lillian, there was one night in particular that I remember vividly. I had laid her down in her crib around 7:15, walked into the kitchen, realized I was alone (my husband was at work) and I remember feeling like myself again. You know that self that was there before children? Well, I found her! Like I said it’s magical!