An Uncomplicated Life Blog: How I Get My Toddler To Sleep By 7pm Every Night

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How I Get My Toddler To Sleep By 7pm Every Night

Recently, I've seen many friends on social media complain about how they can't get their young children to go to sleep. Repeatedly. One of my sweet yogi friends even sat down with me last week and asked, "Ok Paige, HOW do you get Henry to bed so early every night?" That's it, I thought! Time to tell all the struggling parents how I get my toddler to sleep by 7pm. Every. Single. Night. No. Struggle.

Yes, this post contains parenting advice. Yes, I have some really strong, strong opinions about this - some that span beyond a simplistic bedtime. Consider yourself warned.

Very simple and easy to follow tips on getting your children to bed at a reasonable hour - every single night!
First things first: After your child is out of the "4th trimester" (aka s/he is older than three to four months old), why in the heck are you reading, rocking, nursing, bottle feeding, bouncing, singing or otherwise "entertaining" your baby to sleep?! Do you want to be bounced to sleep? Do you want people talking/cooing to you as you attempt to drift off? Oh, you don't? Me either. So why would your child?

Bet you didn't think about it like that before, did you?

Here's the thing: Yes, when a baby is brand new, they cry when they need you, and as much as it stinks, you gotta get your butt out of bed and see what they need. But as I mentioned, starting around the three to four month mark, they've learned (because I'm telling you, babies are SMART) that you come when they make noise. So by this point, if you're STILL going to them every. single. time. he or she cries, you're teaching that baby that s/he runs the show - that you'll drop what you're doing and tend to him or her, even when that baby needs NOTHING.

If that doesn't sound like a big deal to you, allow me to explain. A baby that thinks the world revolves around them turns into a toddler that thinks the world revolves around them. Toddlers throw tantrums. So whenever that toddler doesn't get EXACTLY what s/he wants, it will turn into a scream fest because hey! It's worked his entire life. Then that toddler will turn into a child who still thinks the world revolves around her. You'll be extremely frustrated wondering why your daughter is "that child" who can't be brought anywhere because if she's not content, NOBODY is content. Fast forward a few years, and there is no alcohol strong enough to save you from that a-hole teenager! And as an adult? There is simply nothing worse than an adult who still thinks the world revolves around him! Trust me, I've dated a few. Past tense intentional there.

The world does, in fact, revolve around the sun. So when and how do you gently and slowly teach your baby/toddler/child this? You start with bedtime!

Remember this: YOU are the parent. You make the rules. You decide when bedtime is. And once you've made those decisions, you're the one responsible for sticking with it and being consistent.

How I get Henry to sleep every night by 7pm is extremely easy. In fact, it's the easiest thing yet about parenting! It's also (sometimes) the biggest pain in the a$$.

Here's how I did it: Starting when Henry was four months old (he was a month premature, so that's an age-adjusted three month old) I started putting him in his bassinet AWAKE at 7pm. The room would be cool, dark and a noise machine would be gently going in the background. Every night, without fail, I did this. I'd look at the clock, and give him 20 minutes of crying time. If he hadn't fallen asleep in those 20 minutes, I'd go back and check on him.

Important! I would NOT rock, sing, bounce, or feed him. I would simply peek in on him, make sure he wasn't stuck in an awkward position, make sure he was the right temperature, and make sure that he hadn't spit up on himself. Then I'd leave and shut the door behind me. I'd "set the clock" again for another 20 minutes and repeat if necessary. I can't for the life of me remember any time it took him longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep - not because he is a good sleeper (he's terrible, in fact) but because he had zero stimulus and quickly learned that even if he fussed, I would not go back and provide him any. I'd simply check to make sure he was ok and his situation was good, and leave. That's it.

Babies need over 16 hours of sleep a day. What is YOUR child's bedtime, and is he getting enough sleep?

As a final note, I mentioned consistency. This is the MOST important part! You have to keep the time consistent, every single night, and you have to keep what you do consistent, every single night. Where this method becomes a pain in the a$$ is on the weekends, when you want to go out and do things! We approach it one of two ways: either we go out early and get home in time for that 7pm bedtime, or we have the sitter come at 7pm and push back our own dinner/plans. Either way, Henry's routine is the same, every night. I would also note that when my husband travels, or comes home from work late, I don't keep Henry up for him. Even if his flight will get him home at 7:15pm and he hasn't seen Henry for a few days, Lil' H is out by 7pm. Period. It's tough to put our own wants as parents aside for our little ones, but if you want a well behaved, well rested child, that's exactly what you do: You create a consistent routine for them.

As you can see, getting my toddler to bed by 7pm every night is both the most simple thing in the world and can also be the biggest pain. It's not about me or my plans. It's about delivering consistency for Henry. When there's no bedtime surprises FOR him, there's no bedtime surprises FROM him.


  1. Get it girl!
    The friend I went to see last night does the same thing and she says it helps SO much. Her daughter is only 1.5 months old, but she can tell it's working even now.

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  2. Wow!! I love how you make this so, so simple. Kids do not need to be "tricked" into going to sleep (as you said, by being entertained to sleep) -- you just have to be consistent in your training. Thanks for sharing how you do this!

  3. I can't tell you how many times I use that exact phrase on a daily basis. You are the parent! You make the rules, not them. Also, so important putting babies to bed when they are awake. So many people do not get that and they let them fall asleep on you and then you transfer.....that is the worst idea! When they don't sleep, then you don't sleep and it starts a very bad cycle. This is such perfect advice and well outlined!

  4. My friend is having a hard time with this right now, I'm totally going to send her this post. So helpful.

  5. Yes! I'm sorry, but when parents say "My kid won't go to bed before 10:00 PM" I'm all like "excuse me? you let your kid stay up that late?" Baby girl went to bed at 7 when she was H's age as well. And she slept until 7-7:30. Now that she's almost 4 she goes to bed a bit later, but still before 8:00 and some days before 7:45 if she's had a busy day and no nap. It can be a struggle, especially as they get older and can get out of bed, but consistency is key.

  6. fabulous post girl! obviously, not a parent, but this seems like common sense to me and when i hear of other people having trouble but they aren't being consistent.. i'm like.. well isn't that your problem? but again, no opinion because not a parent. i'll keep this in mind for when i am ;)

  7. I did the same with my daughter when she was a baby and even now. She is 10 and still has a consistent bedtime routine. Here are there we are more flexible at this age but 90 % of the time she is in bed at 9 pm. Children do well with a routine. Especially babies!

  8. I laughed out loud at "entertain them to sleep". Haha! That's so true, though. I love that you don't keep Henry up so he can see his dad. My husband works crazy hours so when we have kids, we'll have a similar situation. I imagine we'll do the same thing with ours. Do you have any book recommendations about infant care for those of us over preparing non-yet-mommas?

  9. Preach! We did the same when our son was around 4 months old as well and while the first days were hard, he started going down easily within a week and now does just fine as a toddler. It's refreshing to see a post like this!

  10. I'm not a parent yet, but I cant for the life of me figure out why parents keep kids up late - like we went to the movies (a 9:30 showing) and there were children under the age of 10 in there...just dont get it! xo, BIana -BlovedBoston

  11. I've done exactly the same thing with all 4 of my kids. And they're amazing sleepers because of it. It drives me crazy when people tell me I'm just lucky. No. I was disciplined. I stayed home for the naps to make sure they slept in their beds (for 2 hours at a time), got them to bed by 7 and missed a lot of socializing to do that. Friends would say one of two things....I'm "harsh" or letting the kids dictate my life. These are the friends who are still dealing with 4 year olds in their beds or that have a two hour "bedtime routine" where the kids pop in and out of their rooms for hours. My youngest little guys (ages 3 and 4) go to bed with a five minute warning ahead of time. Upstairs, teeth brushed, pjs on, kiss and hug and goodnight. End of story. It takes less than two minutes to put the boys to bed these days and they have FASD (prenatal brain damage). Love, love, love this post! So glad you shared your story!!

  12. Do you want to be bounced to sleep? Do you want people talking/cooing to you as you attempt to drift off?

    Yet, CRYING to sleep is ok?

    Ya know, when you get more than one baby under your belt, maybe you can talk. Your theory on toddlers, teens and adults whose needs are met will turn into little assholes...not even remotely true. Mom of 7 here....from 1-24 years of age. All cuddled or nursed to sleep. And guess what? The stuff you say will happen didn't.

    Crying it out is cruel and if anything, is going to teach your child that you are NOT there for them...that's where your tyrant twos and teens come from. Glad it worked for you and I wish you the best...but please, read up on the topic before you post your words of wisdom from a whole year of parenting.

  13. You tell 'em! I definitely plan to sleep-train my kids after all the experiences I have had from nannying.

  14. That chin of his is just scrumptious looking. :)

    K I might get shot for this but it's like puppy training and consistency - don't give up. Parenting is much more work and harder than training a dog but the principles are the same.

    You know I don't have kids but I loved reading this and I love how you're not afraid to speak your opinions. You go, girl.

  15. I love how anonymous hides their identity while giving you grief. Get a grip - it's HER opinion and it's worked for her? Does it affect you? Are you her child? Do you know what's best for her child? Oh no? Then mind your business!

  16. I know I need to do this with my 9 month old! Thanks for the reminder...

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