Why is my baby resisting bedtime?

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You’ve had a long day with your baby/toddler. You’re tired and all you need is a break. You want to put your baby /toddler in bed and walk out but now he/she is resisting bedtime. Very frustrating!

There can be a few reasons why your baby/toddler is resisting bedtime:

1. Overtiredness / Overstimulated
2. A nap happened too close to bedtime
3. Sleep associations
4. No bedtime routine
5. Toddler (Time to skip daytime naps)

1. Overtiredness / Overstimulated

When a baby/toddler is overtired, they work themselves UP instead of down. When your baby is so worked up due to overtiredness, it can be very difficult to get your baby down at bedtime. It’s very important to look at your baby’s maximum awake time between naps to prevent overtiredness. Here is a bit of a guide:

  • 0 – 1 month: up to 40 min
  • 1 – 2 months: 40 min – 60 min
  • 2 – 3 months: 60 min – 80 min
  • 3 – 4 months: 60 min – 90 min
  • 4 – 6 months: 1 hour 15 min – 1 hour 45 min
  • 6 – 8 months: 2 hours – 2.5 hours
  • 8 – 10 months: 2.5 hours – 3.5 hours
  • 10 months & up : 3.5 hours
  • From 13 months: Only 1 nap at midday

Be careful with overstimulation, especially if your baby is still very little. Don’t plan too many activities on one day for your baby. Overstimulation causes overtiredness which means a very difficult bedtime.

2. A nap happened too close to bedtime

When this happens your baby is not tired enough and will resist bedtime. It’s always good to have a specific bedtime because then it’s easier to plan from what time my baby should be awake.

For example: if my 4-month-old usually goes to bed at 19:00 pm, her maximum awake time is 60 min – 90 min. We usually work on the maximum time at night to make sure your baby is tired enough, which means your 4-month-old should be awake from 17:30 pm onwards.

My 10 month old should be awake at 15:30 pm. If your 10 months old wakes at 15:00 pm from his last nap, start your bedtime routine 30 min earlier (18:00 pm) and in bed 30 min earlier (18:30 pm).

3. Sleep associations

Usually, a baby is able to fall asleep with the sleep association (dummy/feeding to sleep/rocking to sleep) but is unable to stay asleep throughout the night (resettle himself back to sleep) without the association. When a baby struggles to fall asleep at bedtime, it’s because the sleep association that always worked for him doesn’t work anymore. If this is your scenario, then it’s a good time to start teaching your baby how to fall asleep independently (without any sleep association) before he gets a new association. By teaching your baby to fall asleep independently will also teach him how to resettle himself back to sleep independently which will give him the Gift of Sleep for the rest of his life!

4. No bedtime routine

All of us prepare ourselves for sleep at night for example:

  • You put your PJ’s on
  • Brush your teeth
  • Get a glass of water
  • Get in bed
  • Read a few pages from your book & now you are ready for bed…

A baby/toddler also needs to psychologically prepare themselves for sleep. You can’t just “dump” them in the bed and expect him to sleep now. That’s where a bedtime routine comes in handy. If you do the same routine every night at approximately the same time, your baby will start to recognise the routine and know that we’re getting close to bedtime and sleep time. A baby only needs 15 min – 45 min to prepare himself for bed. A 30 min bedtime routine is ideal.

A bedtime routine can look like this:

  • Bath
  • PJ’s
  • Bottle/Breastfeeding
  • Story 
  • Swaddle/Sleeping bag                                                                                                                                                                            

5. Toddler (Time to skip daytime naps)

Between the age of 2.5 years & 4 years, toddlers are big enough to start skipping their daytime nap. If a toddler is only having an hour during the day from 12 pm – 1 pm and he is not tired at 7 pm to go to bed, he is ready to skip his day naps. Initially, it can be very difficult to start skipping a nap. They are usually good during the day without the nap but start getting very cranky around 5 pm. If you’ve decided to start skipping your toddler’s nap, it’s a good idea to have an earlier bedtime at night (6 pm) for about 4 – 6 weeks until their bodies got used to the new routine of no-day naps. NO, the earlier bedtime will not lead to earlier wake-ups.

Hope this helps to get your baby/toddler easier into bed at night.

Good luck and sleep well!