“How do I determine the right bedtime for my baby?”

“How do I determine the right bedtime for my baby?”

Get expert advice on setting the perfect bedtime for your baby. Get valuable insights to help you navigate parenthood with confidence today.
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In our Ask an Expert series, we culled the most popular questions from our Nanit Community to bring you the answers, straight from our group of Nanit Lab experts. Parenting isn’t a solo mission, and at Nanit, we believe in the power of information, education, data and resources so that we can empower you to be the best, happiest parent you can be, and to have all of the answers at your disposal (even when you feel like you have none!). 

First up - bedtimes, and how to choose the appropriate time for your baby.

Determining the right bedtime for your baby can be somewhat of a guessing game. Put them to bed too early, and you might find yourself catching sunrise every morning. Put them to bed too late, and you’ve got one fussy, extremely exhausted baby.  We get it. By the time your older one finishes up their last episode of Bluey, the dishes are clean and put away, and your partner just got home from work, that bedtime can have a way of creeping later and later. But one thing we know is that a successful sleep strategy relies on consistency and giving your baby the appropriate amount of sleep they need.

So how do you determine the right bedtime for your baby when so many other factors seem to get in the way? Enter Dr. Natalie Barnett, VP of Clinical Research at Nanit and our resident sleep expert who seems to know all. Here, Natalie outlines what to think about when deciding your baby’s bedtime and how to keep to your schedule despite everything else that gets in the way.

Take Stock Of Your Family’s Lifestyle 

“Most babies want to be in bed somewhere between 6-8 p.m.,” says Natalie. “By four months, their circadian rhythms  are set and typically dictate that they will likely be tired sometime in that window. That said, think about choosing a bedtime in that window that works best for you and your family. If you don’t get home until 6:30 p.m., I don’t recommend 6 p.m. bedtime. If you’re home by 5:30 p.m. and you can see your child, or help them get ready for bed, a 6:30 p.m. bedtime can work. Similarly, if your baby has to be up and out by 7 a.m., I wouldn’t suggest an 8 p.m. bedtime.”

From There, Take Your Baby’s Lead

“You’ll want to look at your lifestyle and think how their bedtime can work within everyone’s schedules,” says Natalie. “But also, a baby’s circadian rhythm will very often tell you what time they want their bedtime to be. If your baby’s typically exhausted by 6:45 p.m., they’re likely not going to make it until 7.”

Think about choosing the time that works for you and your family, and within that, think about adjusting it based on what your baby’s cues are telling you. If your baby is full of life until 7:45 p.m., have an 8 p.m. bedtime. But if your baby can’t function past 6:30 p.m., give them an earlier bedtime.

Then, Merge The Two 

“So really, it’s a combination,” says Natalie. “Do what works for your family, but respect your baby’s need for sleep. I would not invite a friend to my house at 3 a.m. for dinner because we all respect each other’s need for sleep. Do the same for your baby. If a partner can’t be home until 9:30 p.m. every night, then they might not see the baby at night. Instead, carve out time in the morning or on weekends. We need parents to understand that sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise, and that you really want those babies in bed between 6-8 p.m..

Remember: Be Flexible

“Now there will be days that your baby napped too long or too late,” says Natalie. “Then you might see their bedtime pushed back a little. Conversely, there are days when it might be earlier due to a missed nap or something else. But typically, I like to see kids in bed by 7 - 7:30pm, even until the tween years. By the end of elementary school, 8-8:30 p.m. is usually OK. But even in elementary school, their days are busy running around. Even in middle school, aim for no later than 9-9:30 p.m. Kids need their sleep. My general rule of thumb is that kids should be waking up without an alarm or you waking them up in the morning. If you are constantly needing to wake your child in the morning, it is a sign that they need more sleep. Usually the easiest way to get more sleep is to get to bed earlier in the evening.”

Nanit is dedicated to delivering high-quality, reliable content for our readers. Our Parent Confidently articles are crafted by experienced parenting contributors and are firmly rooted in data and research. To ensure the accuracy and relevance of the content, all articles undergo a rigorous review process by our team of parenting experts. Additionally, our wellness-related content receives further scrutiny from Nanit Lab, our think tank of scientists, engineers, physicians, academic experts, and thought leaders.

Our primary objective is to furnish readers with the most current, trustworthy, and actionable information concerning a host of parenting topics. We strive to empower our readers to make informed decisions by offering comprehensive and respected insights.

In pursuit of transparency and credibility, our articles incorporate credible third-party sources, peer-reviewed studies, and abstracts. These sources are directly linked within the text or provided at the bottom of the articles to grant readers easy access to the source material.


Natalie Barnett, PhD serves as VP of Clinical Research at Nanit. Natalie initiated sleep research collaborations at Nanit and in her current role, Natalie oversees collaborations with researchers at hospitals and universities around the world who use the Nanit camera to better understand pediatric sleep and leads the internal sleep and development research programs at Nanit. Natalie holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New England in Australia and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pediatric Sleep Science from the University of Western Australia. Natalie was an Assistant Professor in the Neurogenetics Unit at NYU School of Medicine prior to joining Nanit. Natalie is also the voice of Nanit's science-backed, personalized sleep tips delivered to users throughout their baby's first few years.

Kristy Ojala is Nanit’s Digital Content Director. She spends way too much time looking at maps and weather forecasts and pictures of Devon Rex cats and no-cook dinners. A former sleep champion, she strives to share trustworthy somnabulism tips with other parents—praying for that one fine day when no tiny humans wake her up while it’s still dark out. Her kids highly recommend 3 books, approximately 600 stuffies, Chopin’s “Nocturnes,” and the Nanit Sound + Light for bedtime success.

Mackenzie Sangster is on the Brand and Community team at Nanit. She supports content development and editing for Nanit’s Parent Confidently blog as well as other marketing initiatives. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her friends, cooking, being active, and using the Pro + Flex Duo to keep an eye on her fur-baby, Poppy!

Holly Hays is a contributor and writer for Nanit, channeling her years as a mama and former magazine editor to create fun, useful content for fellow busy, trying-to-do-their-best parents and caregivers. Holly has written for a wide range of brands and media outlets (Ergobaby, HGTV, Manhattan Toy Company, OXO), loves to cook and read mystery novels, and leans heavily on her two daughters to keep her up to date on all the latest slang.