Baby Bedtime vs. Parent Work Schedule
March 30, 2018 9:32 AM   Subscribe

I leave early, my partner comes home late. We have a 14 week old. If you worked similar hours and had a baby, do you have advice about baby bedtimes?

I leave the house early (7:30am) and my partner gets home late (8:30pm). As we move towards a more regular baby bedtime, we're weighing these two options and can't decide what makes more sense:

1. Early bedtime: I could put the baby to bed before my partner gets home at 8:30pm. This might give me more time to make dinner and for adult conversations, but my partner would be sad not to see the baby at night, and we would not be eating dinner as a family when baby moves on to solid foods, which is somewhat important to us.

2. Late bedtime: We could put the baby to bed after my partner comes home, but after eating dinner ourselves and then feeding the baby, baby bedtime might be quite late (9:30pm or so). As baby gets older, I'm worried my partner coming home might be stimulating and make it difficult for baby to sleep. I'm also worried the baby will not consistently wake up early enough to breastfeed before I go to work.

Based on our schedules, I was assuming baby would settle into a sleep schedule like 9:30pm to 6:30am, but heard that babies should be sleeping longer (like 12 hours) at night. There are so many opposing sleep philosophies that it's hard for me to know whether this is true, and that's why I'm seeking some practical advice. I'd rather have a goal in mind instead of just experimenting. Assume childcare does not play into our decision.

Did you have similar work schedules and a baby? What bedtime worked for you, and why?
posted by beyond_pink to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
To me this would depend on how much time your partner got with the baby in the morning. If he's coming back only at 8:30 pm does he also get to leave the house correspondingly late in the morning and spend time with the baby in the morning? If so, then I think it makes sense to shoot for the earlier bedtime. If not, you could experiment with the later bedtime, but I'd focus his energy on trying to get into a job with more humane working hours.
posted by peacheater at 9:46 AM on March 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Honestly, you're still in the survival stage. The baby sleeps a lot more right now than they will in the very near future. Everything is going to change multiple times in the next year and beyond.

Another big factor: Does baby need to be awake at a particular time in order to be somewhere?

In those early months, a lot of people feed baby around 7 or 8pm, put baby down to bed, baby wakes up again around 10:30 or 11pm, is fed, and is put to bed again until the very early morning. But YMMV.

But to your specific situation, if you're leaving at 7:30am, let's assume that you're getting up at 6am or so, right? And you need to shower, get dressed, etc. Where does feeding the baby fit into this plan? Does your morning also involve getting baby off to daycare or does baby stay in the house? Is baby sleeping while you're getting ready or is someone else with baby while you're getting ready?

I think that as baby gets older, your partner coming home at 8:30pm will become more problematic. In a year or so, baby will have a more solid bedtime and that 10:30pm feeding is going to go away.

If partner is dismayed that they can't spend time with baby after work, encourage partner to focus on the time that they do get to spend with baby in the morning.
posted by k8t at 9:51 AM on March 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

My babies would have been wrecks if they didn’t go to bed until then (at 12 and 7, my 12 year old’s bedtime is 8:45). But I had a friend with this kind of schedule and her twins were up until 11...they slept in though. Does baby have to be up for daycare? If so I think I would prioritize sleep for now. You have years and years ahead for family meals. You don’t have to start right with solids.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:51 AM on March 30, 2018

Response by poster: Great advice so far! Yes, my partner gets to spend time with baby in the morning, until around 10am most mornings.
posted by beyond_pink at 9:55 AM on March 30, 2018

We have a 16 week old who is 'sleeping' (with at least one 2am wake up) from around 7pm to around 7am. She never naps more than 45 minutes at a time during the day, and by the end of the day, it's hard to even keep her up until 6:30, when I start her last feeding. She gets crankier by the minute. Maybe if she was a better napper. or if we let her have one more late nap. Managing naps is pretty key.

I would let your partner enjoy the morning time. For us, at least, morning time is happier time anyway.

The alternative is that you give the baby the later bedtime, partially wake him/her up to eat before you go to work, and then put the baby back down to finish the night. I've done that where I have fed her at 6:30am and then she's gone back to sleep until 8:30 or 9am. That could almost be considered the first nap, but it's clear that she is not done sleeping.
posted by oryelle at 10:04 AM on March 30, 2018

Best answer: My husband and I have a similar thing -- I leave by 7am (ideally) and he leaves more like 8:30am, I get home at 4:15pm and he is home at 6pm. We definitely split the duties so that he is much more in charge of morning stuff (I help as I can, in between getting ready to leave) and I do the bulk of evening stuff. Our baby has a super early bedtime, but is also a rockstar sleeper (6:45pm-6am). He's 12 months now, but when he was younger we did even EARLIER bedtimes (like 5:30pm!) because he was bad at daycare naps. From ages 3-7 months, my husband rarely saw the baby on weekday evenings.

I agree with snickerdoodle that unfortunately, baby sleep schedules aren't infinitely shift-able. Staying up later doesn't mean sleeping in (we tried that with ours, since we hoped to get to at least 7am on weekends -- no dice!). And 9:30pm is just way, way too late for a 14-weeker. I like for guidance on age-appropriate sleep schedules.

My opinion is that there's nothing absolutely sacred about "family dinner" per se. Can you manage "family breakfast"? What about just focusing on getting a nice family meal on weekend nights?
posted by Bebo at 10:05 AM on March 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Early bedtime 100%. vote early bedtime today for a better tomorrow.

Both my partner and I have missed bedtimes with our two kids on and off over the years. But the benefits to adult sanity and marital bliss of having a few hours without kids each night are immense. Our 6 year old still goes to bed at 7-7:30, our 2 year old at the same time. 8-11 is time to cooking, cleaning, sex, watching shows, drinking, showers, playing board games, pooping alone all the important adult things.
posted by French Fry at 10:06 AM on March 30, 2018 [13 favorites]

Oh, I should clarify that neither of us eats dinner with the baby on weeknights right now -- I feed him solids at like 5:30, my husband and I eat together after baby is sleeping. On weekends we can eat dinner together more easily because he takes better naps and therefore can have a later bedtime (more like 7 or 7:15) -- again, see the weebeedreaming site for guidance about when bedtime should be based on the last nap of the day.
posted by Bebo at 10:08 AM on March 30, 2018

I would be really hesitant to do that late of a bedtime for a baby. We always did a 7pm bedtime and both kids were solid 7 to 7 sleepers. For us later bedtimes were a recipe for disaster. They don’t sleep later, they just sleep less. No good.
posted by ohio at 10:43 AM on March 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

If your partner gets home at 8:30, dinner together with the kids would be impossible anyway until the kid is much older, like a teenager. So I vote early bedtime! Make it easier on all of you all and get a proper school-ready rhythm going. I know you said your baby is only 14 weeks but it's never too soon, haha.

Congrats to you and your partner on the baby!
posted by MiraK at 10:56 AM on March 30, 2018

12 hours is real! little babies need lots of sleep. Our 2 1/2 year old is still sleeping 11 hours or so at night with one nap during the day (from 0-40 minutes at daycare to 2 1/2 hours at home :/)
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:25 AM on March 30, 2018

My husband and I had a similar situation but it was more drastic when my son was small; he got home at 11pm then.

My suggestion is let baby go to bed later; so they can see your spouse at night for a short time. Even when baby gets older and may sleep a little later, your partner is home in the mornings to catch a little more time. If baby is not exclusively breast fed but can be bottle fed, maybe thats a little bonding time your partner can have in the mornings?

My husband woke up in the mornings and took care of our son, and then took him to daycare before he left for work because I had an earlier time much like you. It worked out really well.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 11:41 AM on March 30, 2018

Family mealtime isn't as big a deal until the baby is more of a kid. Their sleep schedule will be different at 2 than it is now, and who knows, your work schedule might be different, too. Based on the kids I've known, you want the early bedtime, definitely, unless your baby just doesn't sleep that way.
posted by gideonfrog at 11:53 AM on March 30, 2018

Babies are all different sand have different sleep needs. You need to find out what your baby needs and continue to tweak it over time as their needs change.

Personally I think communal mealtimes are incredibly important right from the start so if my partner is going to be late I eat with baby.

My baby goes to sleep between 8 and 9 usually at 14 months but that has varied wildly as naps have changed time in the day and gradually decreased.
posted by kadia_a at 12:50 PM on March 30, 2018

I vote early bedtime. At that age, we were trying for 8-8:30 bedtime, and both twins were getting up for a feed every 3 hours. In desperation, I put them down at 5:30 and both kids slept a solid 6 hours. Anecdata aside, for a lot of kids, a late bedtime means they wake early and cranky. An early bedtime means they wake early and happy. This is not true for all babies! If your baby is a night owl, she won't go down at 6:30 or whatever easily. Observe the baby, record all sleep for a while, and you'll probably figure out her pattern.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 1:01 PM on March 30, 2018

Best answer: We had the same decision to make, and chose an earlier bedtime for the baby, simply because the negative consequences of lack of sleep greatly outweigh the negative consequences of not eating weeknight dinners together.

There are so many opposing sleep philosophies that it's hard for me to know whether this is true

Sleep philosophies usually differ in their recommendations for how to get your kid to sleep, not in how much sleep they need. That's not philosophy; that's science. Cognitive function and general health is strongly impacted by sleep. Yes, your baby could be the outlier that needs drastically less sleep than the average baby. But the odds are against that being the case.

eating dinner as a family when baby moves on to solid foods, which is somewhat important to us.

Seems like you can still have breakfast together on the weekdays and potentially all meals together on weekends. While there are studies that show that eating together is good for the family in various different ways, those studies don't say that eating together is the *only* way to reap those benefits.

On the other hand, there's no replacement for sleep. It is a far more fundamental human need than eating dinner together.
posted by pizzazz at 1:50 PM on March 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Have you heard about the 4 month sleep regression? Your baby’s sleep is about to change (and will likely keep changing). I have a 6 month old and around 4 months, we started to observe this: there is a “window” about 90 minutes - 2 hrs from the time the baby last woke where they are ready to sleep again. When you put your baby to bed might have more to do with when they wake up from their last nap of the day than any other factor. My experience has been that my baby sleeps best when I respond to her cues rather than try to get her to conform to my schedule. And because, for us, all happiness as a family flows from sleep, we go where her cues lead us.
posted by CMcG at 3:33 PM on March 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just chipping in to say that, while at 14 weeks you may have some say in what time your baby goes to bed, by six months you won’t.

You might be able to make things better or worse by managing naps (baby Tinkletown usually goes to bed at 19:30, but he doesn’t nap well at nursery and is falling asleep in his food by 18:30 on nursery days). But if they don’t want to stay up until 9pm, you won’t make them. You’ll just have hours of screaming and broken sleep.
posted by tinkletown at 3:46 PM on March 30, 2018

Family mealtime is for kids, not babies. You might not get much say in this - one of my babies was a bedtime is 8:30 and not a moment earlier kid and one was a 6pm is my perfect bedtime and you will regret missing it. You should experiment a bit (and suffer through the four month sleep regression) to find the time that works best. It will probably be pretty obvious - bedtime itself will be pretty easy compared to other times, there will be fewer wakeups, wake times and naps will get a bit more consistent. But if you both are getting some awake time with baby during the day, don't struggle to meet some family mealtime standard that doesn't apply to you yet.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:04 PM on March 30, 2018

Response by poster: Coming back to update this thread. I've been putting baby to bed at 6:30-7pm and it's working out really well. I go downstairs and cook with the monitor on and dad and I get to have a grown-up dinner when he gets home.
posted by beyond_pink at 5:37 AM on May 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

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