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Children's Health

Adjust Good Sleep Pattern for Earlier Bedtime

02/26/2011

Question:

I start my 12 week old`s bedtime routine around 9:15 pm: bath and story, then feeding at 10pm, and asleep by 10:30. She doesn`t wake until 6 am for a feeding. (She stirs a few times at night as though she`s waking, but I just put her pacifier back in her mouth and she goes back to sleep.) She goes right to sleep after the 6am feeding until almost 10am. The 7.5 hour sleep stetch is nice, but I currently keep her awake from 8:30-10:30...thinking that keeping her awake right before bed will make her sleep longer. (She usually doesn`t stay up for more than an hour at a time, so she starts to get fussy -- it isn`t easy to keep her up for these two hours.)

In anticipation of her eventually sleeping for longer stretches, should I make her bedtime earlier? This schedule works for me since I`m returning to work and 1. I`ll get a decent sleep at night and 2. with a 6 am feeding I can breastfeed her before going to work and will only have to have her bottlefed twice during the day. But, I`m wondering if she`ll eventually skip the 6am feeding...so at some point she`ll sleep 10pm to 10am, when I`d rather have,let`s say 8pm to 8am. Some people tell me to leave it alone -- it`s a good thing at this age. Others tell me I should sacrifice a few hours of sleep now (because I won`t go to bed earlier just because she does), so that her sleep cycle works out better later. What do you think?

(Other info: she is 11.5 lbs. Exclusively breastfed. Stays awake for just over an hour at a time, and naps for 1-2 hours at a time. She eats every four hours. At the 10pm feeding, she eats for nearly twice as long as the other feedings (in anticipation of the long stretch with no food??)

Answer:

It sounds like you daughter is growing and sleeping very well at 3 months of age. By 3 months of age, melatonin secretion that establishes circadian rhythm starts to occur in most infants, and regular sleep cycles with the longest period of sleep through the night develops. This period of overnight sleep will become longer and day time sleep will consolidate into a couple of naps.

The fact that you daughter sleeps 7.5 hrs through the night without awakening or feeding is very good. You are both doing fine. She will sleep longer at night eventually and you will be able to adjust her bedtime earlier in the next few months.

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Response by:

Mark   Splaingard, MD Mark Splaingard, MD
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University