What is an early bedtime? 7pm? 8pm? The answer is that it depends on you and your family, and the age(s) of your child(ren). For my family right now, in the preschool years, early bedtime means we are in bed with lights out between 6:30-7:30. I get a lot of comments saying, “wow, you’re so lucky!” or “don’t they wake up too early then?” The first answer is no, we aren’t lucky. We plan for this early bedtime through use of a very consistent and predictable bedtime routine. The other answer is no, they don’t wake up “too early,” at least for us. They wake up between 6-7. This works for our family. I get it that this probably won’t work for a family where parents get home at 6:30, or older sibling activities (soccer, baseball) run later into the evening. You could still implement a consistent bedtime routine to make that part smoother though. When my first was 4 months old, the pediatrician was already asking me about our bedtime routine. It’s that important. With my second born, the bedtime routine was a piece of cake because we had an established routine.
So here is what it looks like for us (roughly). My kids are HANGRY around 4, so they eat between 4-5pm most days. After dinner, they RUN to the bath, and enjoy some play time in there while we clean up. Once bath is over we choose a TV show. Once that’s done, they RUN to the bathroom to brush their teeth. They kiss each other goodnight, and each parent accompanies one child to their rooms to read and tuck in. We have ZERO fights or complaints. Well, I shouldn’t say zero because we do get some push back occasionally, but that’s typically when they are overtired and/or sick, which means I missed the window to get them down even sooner (yep, you read that right). But they transition between each part of the routine without issue because it is consistent, and predictable.
Does our early bedtime ever backfire, you ask? Yes, all the time. If one of us comes home late from work or an appointment, the other one is already feeding the kids and we don’t get to eat together as a family (I usually meal prep for those expected occasions, but that’s another post!). We sacrifice other things for it. If our friends or family want to make dinner plans, we ask to start around 4:30 (or earlier!). If we are going out, this means we usually get home PAST the bedtime routine start time, but we pick up from there and they follow right along. You know what does consistently backfire for us? Keeping them up late with the HOPE that they sleep in later. Almost without fail, the nights they are up later than usual, such as Halloween, they are up again between 6-7, and it makes for a rough day. I know some families whose kids will sleep in later if they stayed up later. Not mine. But again, I do what is best for my family.
As with any choice you make for yourself or your family, there are benefits and drawbacks. Early bedtime for us means well rested, happy children. It also means that my husband and I can have some predictable quiet time every evening. The drawbacks are that we bow out of some social things that run later into the evening, or our evening can feel rushed if we are trying to get through it quickly to get crabby little people off to bed. In the end, my husband and I do our best to do what works for our children, and our family in the current season of life we are in.