best bedtime by age for babies and toddlers

Baby Bedtime by Age: Every Age Explained

Understanding the best bedtime by age for your baby and toddler is an important aspect of helping them get the sleep that they need to grow, learn and thrive. Having a consistent bedtime helps keep your child’s body clock regulated, allowing them to get the best quality of sleep. (The same applies to you, too!) Additionally, appropriately timing bedtime helps ensure that babies and toddlers get the total amount of sleep they need in a 24 hour period. 

Here are the optimal bedtimes for babies and toddlers at different ages.

Bedtime for Babies 0-3 months old (Newborns)

During the first few months of life, newborns typically sleep for about 16-18 hours a day, but their sleep is usually divided into short periods of two to four hours, and sometimes even shorter periods. Newborns’ circadian rhythm has not yet developed, which means that they sleep and eat (and poop!) around the clock, typically without a well defined night and day. (Experiencing day and night confusion with your newborn, here are some tips to address that!)

For newborns, an optimal bedtime is usually between 8:00-10:00 PM. Newborns often can get one longer stretch of sleep, and ideally you want to time it with when you go to bed, so that you can also get that longer stretch of sleep.

A rhythm of melatonin and increased sleep efficiency starts to develop when babies are around 9 weeks old.[1] This means bedtime can shift earlier in this range as longer stretches can appear.

Bedtime for Babies 4-6 months old

As your baby grows, their sleep patterns will become more regular, and they will typically begin to sleep for longer periods at night starting around 12-16 weeks as a more defined day and night pattern of sleep emerges.[1] 

Most babies between 4-6 months will sleep for 14-15 hours per day, including three to four daytime naps.

For 4-6 month old babies, the optimal bedtime is between 6:30-7:30 PM.

Around this age, many babies will be able to sleep for longer stretches at night, so it’s important to establish a consistent bedtime routine that encourages this. Following age-appropriate wake windows to avoid overtiredness, undertiredness and getting adequate daytime sleep will also help your baby start to have longer stretches of night sleep.

Bedtime for Babies 6-9 months old

Between 6-9 months of age, the average total amount of sleep needed in a 24 hour period is 12-15 hours, including 10-12 hours of nighttime sleep and about 3 hours of nap sleep split between 2-3 naps. By 8 to 9 months, most babies have transitioned to 2 naps.

The optimal bedtime for babies 6-8 months is between 6:30-7:30 PM.

Bedtime for Babies 9-12 months old

At this age, babies still sleep on average for 12-15 hours in a 24 hour period. This includes 2.5-3 hours of daytime sleep split between 2 naps.

The optimal bedtime is between 6:30-7:30 PM for 9-12 month old babies.

Bedtime for Toddlers 12-18 months old

As your baby gets into their toddler years, bedtime is typically between 6:30-8:00 PM when your toddler is still taking 2 naps. As your toddler is transitioning to one nap, sometimes an earlier bedtime temporarily is needed to help them adjust to the reorganization of sleep. 

Bedtime for Toddlers 18 months – 3 years old

Toddlers between 18 months and 3 years old typically need a bedtime between 7:00-8:00 PM. 

At this age toddlers need between 11-14 hours of total sleep in a 24 hour period with 1-2.5 hours of sleep for their one nap.

Bedtime for 3-5 year olds

Children start to drop their nap sometime in this age range and sleep needs may slightly decrease to 10-13 hours total.

The optimal bedtime for 3-5 year olds is between 7:00-8:30 PM.

Baby Bedtime By Age

Here’s a cheat sheet for the optimal bedtimes for newborns, infants, toddlers and preschoolers:

bedtime by age chart for babies and toddlers

Other Bedtime Sleep Tips

Keep bedtime consistent, even on the weekends

Exceptions happen sometimes (you’ve got to live your life!) but going to bed at the same time each night, even on the weekends, keeps your child’s sleep rhythm regulated so they can get the best quality sleep possible.

Implement a soothing, predictable bedtime routine

A bedtime routine helps cue your baby or toddler’s brain and body that the transition to sleep is coming. While there may be some tweaks over the years to the bedtime routine including last feeding of the day (babies up to 12 months), a bath, baby massage, putting on pajamas and sleep sack, reading a story, singing a song and getting into bed is great.

“Will putting my baby or toddler to bed later than this be bad for them?”

While we discussed the optimal bedtimes for babies and toddlers above, there are some families who operate on a schedule that is shifted later, some based on preference but many because it is a cultural norm for them. It is definitely possible to make this work. The most important thing is making sure your children get the total amount of sleep they need. Here are a few things to consider:

You will want to stay on this later schedule routinely, not just certain days of the week

If bedtime is much later as the norm, the morning wake up time needs to be shifted later too.

This allows your child to get the total amount of sleep they need. Light and dark control our sleep wake cycle, so making sure it stays SUPER dark until the normal wake up time as well as being exposed to light until closer to the later bedtime can help shift your child’s body clock to the later schedule.

If your child’s wake up time is not shifted later, it may be difficult to make sure that they get the total amount of sleep they need. This is the piece that could be detrimental to them.

Bedtime by Age

Establishing a consistent, age-appropriate bedtime is important for babies and children of all ages. While the optimal bedtime will vary depending on your baby’s age, the most important thing is to make sure that your little one gets the total amount of sleep they need to support their growth and development.

Need support in getting your baby or toddler’s bedtime and overall sleep figured out? Reach out today and schedule your free evaluation so we can chat more about what is going on, your goals, and how I can help you reach those goals.

Cheers to happy, healthy sleep,

Bonnie


Bonnie is a Pediatric Sleep Consultant with over 5 years of experience working with babies, toddlers and young children to get them sleeping well using responsive and respectful sleep strategies. Learn more about Bonnie and how she works with families to get everyone sleeping better here.

[1] PERSPECTIVE: The Long-Term Effects of Light Exposure on Establishment of Newborn Circadian Rhythm; https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/10.5664/jcsm.7426

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