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Baby Rigid Bedtime Routine

Can Your Baby’s Bedtime Routine Be Too Rigid?

By Amalah

Hi Amy-

I have a question that has been weighing on me for awhile and hoping you can help with. I have an 11 month old little boy, my first. He is such a great baby. Everywhere we go, people comment on what a happy guy he is. Part of this, I know, is just sheer luck. But I’d like to think part of it is the fact that he is well rested. He sleeps through the night and takes two regular naps a day. His longest nap is usually 2 hours in the morning and a cat nap of 30-45 minutes in the afternoon. He goes to bed every night around 7-7:30pm and usually sleeps until 6:30-7:30am, with the occasional bad spell when he’s going through a new development/teething etc.

Here’s where I need help. My family and my in-laws often make comments about our routine. We are pretty solid that come 6 pm, we are out. Getting him through bath, bottle, reading, and then bed. I feel like they’re all rolling their eyes every time we say we have to go. And of course, we have babies on both sides of our family just months apart and THEY keep their babies up way later and have more of a go with the flow attitude about things, so why can’t we? We have made exceptions for holidays and always paid the price the next day with a Grumpy Gus. But, I don’t always want to be the wet blanket. We don’t ever go out at night unless we have a sitter and we are never those people that have the sleeping baby in the restaurant at 9 o’clock at night. Sometimes I wish we were a little more flexible, but I am just trying to do what is best for my son. He’s happy when he gets his routine and I figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That being said, is there such a thing as TOO much routine? I know you have three boys. And everyone says once we have number two, all this routine stuff will go out the window.

Do you think our families have a point? Or am I right to keep the bedtime routine a top priority? I really feel lost on this one because I feel like I need an outside perspective. Thanks!

Rigid Routine Mama

Ooooohhhh, good question. Though it’s 100% a matter of opinion and what works for some people and what works better for others, I think. So let me just ramble on about our experiences. (Like always, right?)

Establishing good bedtime routine is very, very important, especially in the first year. And extra especially for babies who aren’t naturally good sleepers. The point of the step-by-step routine (bath, book, bottle or boob, etc.) is to teach your baby cues for sleep, so by the time they hit the crib mattress they know what’s coming and (in theory) are settled and ready to put themselves to sleep.

That said, once we’ve personally had the routine established and achieve consistent sleeping-through-the-night status, we do mess with it occasionally. It’s not something we live and die by, and I prefer my children to not get too dependent on everything being “just so” all time, every night.

Mostly because, with three children, you just honestly…can’t. I probably didn’t manage your level of dedication with one, actually, as my husband and I are established night owls with a wicked restaurant habit. Six pm is awfully early to call it a night, every night, no matter what. BUT THAT’S JUST US. And we’re not you. If you guys are all happy (including your husband) with your abbreviated social life and Early Bird eating habits, that’s fine.

But if you’re not…well, it doesn’t make you bad parents if you occasionally treat bedtime as something less-than-sacred. We aren’t the family with the sleeping baby and tired preschoolers out at 9 pm either…but sometimes we’re getting home from the restaurant at 7:45 and send everybody straight to bed. When we visit friends and plan to stay “late” (which is still early, because we are all Old), we bring PJs and change everybody into them before hitting the road. I’ve doled out bottles to babies in carseats, knowing they’ll fall asleep in the car and get carried right to bed at home.

We don’t do this on school nights, or for more than one night in a row. We usually enforce a nap or quiet time the next afternoon for the older boys, and/or bump the next night’s bedtime up an hour to compensate. It all balances out, everyone is fine, etc. And Baby Ike is a super happy baby, just like he was a supper happy baby even during the EIGHT SOLID MONTHS of sleeping like total crap most of the time.

There was a brief phase during those eight months, when we had some success with putting Ike to bed early. REALLY early. Like done with the routine and in his crib by 6pm or 6:30pm at the latest. At first, we were so desperate for sleep at night that we had no problem with this. Anything that works! Do it!

And I know the 6/6:30pm bedtime does work for a lot of families. It did not work for us. At all. After a week or two, it was driving us all collectively crazy. Sometimes Ike was in bed before Jason even got home from work, which he hated. It meant the end of our once-a-week family routine of taking Noah to his karate class at 6:30pm and grabbing dinner at Chipotle beforehand, which the boys hated. (He also has a standing one-hour OT appointment at 5 pm once a week, 20 minutes away from home, so…then what?) It meant I had to feed Ike his dinner at 4:30 alone while the boys milled around and whined for snacks, then make a second meal for everyone, and sometimes even a third because the sight of Ike eating sent them into Fake Hunger Hysterics and they refused to wait for Jason to get home, which I hated. It completely sucked on the weekends, which we all hated. Cutting just two or three hours off the evening so Ike could be in bed before the sun went down was a massive pain in the ass.

So we went back to the drawing board on trying to figure out a nap/nighttime schedule that worked better for us. For all of us.

I personally tend to lean towards the opinion that a baby needs to eventually acclimate into your existing life and schedule, rather than the other way around. Not that you don’t make allowances and changes for their benefit, of course. And certain parts of the day’s schedule are obviously more important than others. (My in-laws used to drive. us. insane. because they don’t follow any kind of mealtime schedule [they juice all day and then eat like, a salad at 10 pm at night] and would completely forget that our kids turn into blood sugar gremlins if they don’t eat real, solid food at regular, set intervals.) You know your son. If futzing with his bedtime — even occasionally — has a seriously detrimental effect on him, you do what you have to do because it’s your family.

That said, yes, I do have to concede that your family does have a point about the difficulty in keeping SO MUCH ROUTINE so very sacred once you have another baby. I once got a letter from someone who was absolutely insistently rigid on naps only happening in cribs. Naps were super important, so no napping in the car or stroller or anywhere “on the go.” And then she had another baby and realized it wasn’t so easy to keep up with that policy: Making the baby nap in his crib twice a day, every day, meant her older child had to just…sit around the house and wait for the baby to wake up. He wanted to go to the playground and his Gymboree classes and such. And again, with the weekend problem. How was it fair to the whole family to spend their days together sitting at home while the baby napped instead of being out and going to the zoo or mall or wherever? But then didn’t baby #2 deserve to have his naps taken seriously?

I accidentally deleted the question before answering it, unfortunately. I didn’t answer it right away because I needed to make sure I was approaching it with the right level of sensitivity: This mom was really proud of her approach to her first baby’s naps. She’d clearly invested years in setting up a routine that revolved around naps and probably sacrificed a lot of outings and social activities to make it happen. And the last thing I wanted to say to her was that it didn’t matter. Whatever! Let the baby nap in a stroller in the shade at the playground. If he falls asleep in his carseat, just carry it in and stick it in his room when you get back, no biggie. If you’re home, let him nap in his crib. If you’re out with your older son, well…do what you have to do.

But that is kind of the answer I’d have to give. But also that just because you can’t do XZY for Baby B doesn’t undermine what you did for Baby A, or shortchange Baby B. It’s just a fact of life in a multiple child family. We’re pretty flexible on routines in our house because we all have to be pretty flexible. Because no single one of us is “in charge” of the entire family’s schedule.

If Ezra is napping but it’s time to take someone else to something (sports, an appointment, a party we’ve RSVP’d to, etc.)…well, sorry little guy, I’m waking you up and putting you in the car. Yes. I know you’re grumpy. I understand you’re grumpy. No, you don’t get to take it out on your family, because tomorrow we’ve all made accommodations for something on YOUR calendar. And then the day after that, Mommy and Daddy want to see some grown-up friends because we LOVE YOU BOYS, but holy crap. I need some non-Lego-centric conversations already.

Anyway. That’s life in our house. Obviously you guys don’t have to live that way, and that’s fine. That’s probably where your relatives are coming from, though, with their annoyance or assvice (or whatever it is) about your nightly 6 pm dash home. You can absolutely ignore them. Your son is 11 months old and his need for the routine will naturally diminish with age, and you may find you’re more comfortable abbreviating it down from an hour-and-a-half affair in a few months. Maybe you could try shortening it a bit, here and there (my kids don’t bathe every night; their skin can’t handle it). Take a short trip and let him try sleeping somewhere new. Routines are wonderful…but flexibility is also a super-important life skill that you’ll eventually be grateful you instilled in him, you know?

(Or hey! Leave him in the care one weekend of one of your judge-y relatives and let THEM witness the bedtime fall-out the next day. MWA HA HA. )

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • laura

    June 8, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Honestly, if it were socially acceptable for me to leave everything at 6pm to go to bed, I’d do it without a baby to blame it on, but I legit had a baby like yours. I say tell them to chill out. As your baby gets older, the routine will adjust (ours did anyway, she stays up a little later, and sleeps–thank god–a little later now). And we had a second (two under two) and our routines didn’t go out the window, they just got tweaked and loosened in some places. But our second was just not the rigid soldier her sister was (and I imagine your in-laws kid is). Every baby is different, and every year is different.

  • Katie

    June 8, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I’m with Amy–when you start adding kids to the mix, you just kind of make it work, because there’s no other option.

    For the first chunk of his life, baby #1 had a very solid “bath, jammies, bottle (later on, bedtime ‘snack’ at highchair), brush teeth, stories, bed” routine. Now that baby 2 is here? We sometimes still do the whole rigamarole. But more often he gets a simple 15-20 minute “jammies, wash face and hands, teeth, story, kisses, bed.” The baby sometimes gets the whole meal deal, but most nights, he gets jammies and sleep sack, bottle, song, bed. If we’re getting back from somewhere and it’s late? The stories bite the dust, or are abbreviated to a single run of Goodnight Moon. I’ve also done jammies prior to getting in the car. Basically, if you’re willing to play around a little, you can figure out what’s a “must, must, must” and what you can sacrifice in the interest of buying some time on the front end of bedtime.

    And when you do have a second? I strongly suggest getting a carseat with some good head support, because I can’t imagine survival without naps on the go.

  • Bethany

    June 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    I could have written this letter! My family has always given me grief about the schedule I have set for my son. BUT IT WORKS! And when he is happier, I am happier. As long as he has had plenty of sleep, he is a go with the flow kind of kid. That’s the part that my family sees. Because I’ve allowed him to get the sleep he needs before we see them. That’s not to say that traveling was ever easy, but he was also a particularly picky sleeper. He wanted it dark, with soft music, by himself, in a space where he could feel the physical boundaries of whatever he was sleeping in. He didn’t do well sleeping in a big bed, and when we were in hotel rooms, I had to cover to the front and top of the pack n play with a light sheet so he couldn’t see whatever else was going on. (He just turned 3 and is still particular about most things involving sleep!) Yeah, it made our social lives a little more difficult, but having kids in general does that. I leave him with both sets of my parents. Both of them would rather play than make him sleep. And he seems fine to them for the short period of time that he’s with them. But as soon as he gets home and the lack of sleep catches up, it is almost worth it not to send him for overnight visits. Basically, this LONG comment is to say I know what you are going through. As long as your routine is working for you now, leave it alone. If your child is anything like mine, changing it up only makes life worse all around. And as he gets older and requires less sleep, your schedule will change naturally.

    • Renee

      June 12, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      Agreed!  I could have also written this letter, too.  Try not to get too annoyed or defensive about the comments from others.  Whether you have a second child or not, your first baby’s routine is going to change naturally over time as he gets older and before you even realize it, this won’t be an issue anymore – for you or them.  Your friends/relatives will then move onto “advising” about something else. 🙂

      • Heidi

        June 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm

        I also could have written this letter, though substitute friends for family (our family is out of state, and mostly just as rigidly scheduled).
        Mostly we are INCREDIBLY LUCKY because we can afford babysitters. So from our perspective, the rigid night schedule (including bedtime routine starting at 6:30, asleep by 7 at the latest) is great because it means a 7:30pm adult dinner (either home or out with a sitter at home) is still possible without sacrificing the baby’s sleep. It makes preparing dinner after work kind of tight, but I’ve figured out some short cuts.
        The bigger problem is his nap schedule, which I always want to futz with on the weekends and my husband insists must be as rigid as bedtime.
        I’m going back to my basic piece of advice (not that anyone asked): do what works for your family.

  • Jeannie

    June 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    My first kid was a child of routine, and we stuck to it — even missing some family events — because the mess of a poor child the next day was just too hard. It’s a phase he grew out of, being so sensitive, and over the years we gained more flexibility with it. I’m very much of the “if it’s working for you and your kid, stick with it” camp — your routine will get more flexible later on. Some people’s kids can take that flexibility early, and some can’t. Mine couldn’t, and maybe yours can’t either and that’s ok! Don’t let family make you feel bad; there are always other times / meals to get together for. (My family, kindly, had holiday dinners at 5 for a couple years so I could have my kid in bed at 7. It wasn’t great for those people without kids, but we all coped!)

  • emah

    June 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Yep, I’ve been that person. And you know what? My 2-year-old was a much happier kid for it. We stretched things — 8 pm bedtime instead of 7 on holidays, or put her in bed at the party somewhere and then transported her home — but luckily SHE got crazy pretty quick if she was up past her bedtime. So people were on board with the “that kid needs to go home before she tears the place apart” thing we had going on.

    Last summer we did a family reunion with a bunch of people who are very laid-back about their kids’ bedtimes (by which I mean the kids don’t know what a bedtime is. Really. No hyperbole there). It was kind of stressful, but you’ve got to do what works best. And kids need bedtimes. No questions there.

  • Jimmy

    June 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    If it works for you, let it ride. You as parents are the only people that have to deal with that baby when you go home.  If it is working, then it makes sense staying out a little later doesn’t seem worth it anymore.  

    My son was a crap sleeper from 4 to 9 months.  He is our first, and it took my wife and I a long time to accept sticking to a bedtime routine (we liked going out to dinner, buzzing around town, seeing friends and family, etc).  There were a number of things that changed when my son finally started sleeping through the night on a regular basis.  Actually sticking to the bedtime routine was one of those things.  

    After going through all that time with a sleepless child, I completely understand rigid adherence to a routine.  I can say now, with him at 20 months, that we break his routine plenty. But I think it is better occasionally break a set routine, then the other way around.  His normal sleep habits nowadays: out by 8:30pm, up at 9:30 or later the next morning, with a 2 or 3 hour nap in the afternoon.  I consider this the greatest thing on earth, and no amount of judgment from friends or family regarding his bedtime routine (starts at 7/7:30) is going to change that.

  • Myriam

    June 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    I’m of the mind that it is ok to deal with a crabby child for 1 day if it allows you more time with family and friends once in a while. I think the operative word here however is “once in a while”… Would I mess it up more than once or twice a month? No, I think not… but spending the whole day at the park with friends, my 17-month old skiping the nap, have her sleep for an hour in the car on the way home, eating dinner and then bed, that’s such an amazing day. In the end, will you remember the less-than-happy child the next day, or the fun-out-of-the-ordinary day out?

  • Antje

    June 8, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    I hear ya.  My daughter (now 13 months) was a pretty rough sleeper from about 4-9 months as well, and I am certain that her rigid bedtime routine and overall protection of her sleep/naps was the key to her eventually learning to manage sleep on her own very well.  Since about 10 months old, she now only wakes once per night (this is HUGE for a baby who never used to sleep for more than 2 hours in a row)!  We’re the crazy people who start her bedtime routine at 5:30 and have her in bed by 6, but then she sleeps until 6:30AM, has a 2.5 hour nap in the morning and a 1.5 hour nap in the afternoon.

    It’s a little crazy to have a baby who is only ever awake for about 7-8 hours per day, and who ONLY sleeps in a crib (Seriously.  Not even in the car on a long road trip.), but she’s happier for it and so who cares what others think?  We make exceptions for important family events, but not more than once or twice per month.

  • Olivia

    June 8, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    This is definitely a “whatever works for you” situation. We have always had a much later bedtime with our daughter, and now our son, because 7:30 or earlier would mean very little time with them after work. And we like the fact they can both sleep anywhere, on the go, etc because it makes it possible for us to have a social life.

  • Melanie

    June 8, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Yes! This is exactly me. In the beginning my baby was a sleep anywhere baby (but aren’t they all?) but once we moved her to the crib, that is where she wanted to sleep. And she needed to be in bed by 7 or the next day was a horror. At Christmas we went to a family event in the evening, and I tried to put her in her pack and play to sleep there, but she wouldn’t have it (it was also very very noisy, which didn’t help). She screamed for an HOUR of the ride home (at ten at night!) out of pure exhaustion and stubbornness, until she finally fell asleep. My parents were riding with us, and finally they believed me when I said “Her routine is IMPORTANT!” She is a little more flexible now, at 15 months (will fall asleep in the car without screaming, yay) but I am still pretty strict on her routine. The few times we mess with it, she can cope, but I think that is because we don’t do it often, not the other way around. My SIL lets her 2 yr old stay up forever, and she is always giving me trouble about my daughter’s bedtime, but you just have to ignore it. You know what’s best for your kid. 

  • Alissa

    June 8, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    I was pretty rigid with DS’s routine til he was about 2.  Then he could stretch nap later, or skip it if need be, and could do bed time a little later if need be.  But it doesn’t matter what time this child goes to bed (still – he’s 3 now), he always wakes up at 6AM.  Believe me, I have TRIED to move it back.  He’s an early riser, no matter what.  So if he’s not in bed by 7, even now, we have a bit of a grumpy pants the next day.  It’s hard, I’m sure, with cousins who never go to bed.  But that may be what works for them, and not what works for you.  Stick to your guns!

  • jL

    June 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    I agree with lots of the comments above – you have to do what is best for you and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and also I think it is worth a fun day or event here or there even if you have to deal with a grumpy kid the next day. My 22 month old twins have a general schedule we stick to every night – bath, lotion, books, prayers, bed. They are the biggest sticklers about their baths, actually. They get really upset if they don’t get a bath. But every Sunday night we have dinner with my husband’s family at their house which generally means they don’t get that routine and they are up later than usual (9:00 vs. 7:30 bedtime). I have noticed on these nights my son doesn’t sleep through the night and I have to get up at 2:00 or 3:00 and cuddle him back to sleep. It is kind of annoying but I like the routine of Sunday dinner with the in-laws. You have to do what works for you and you will cross the bridge with Baby #2 when you get there. Plus, everything changes so quickly with these little ones. In 3-6 months it could all change.

  • Anna

    June 8, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    My oldest was an absolutely miserable hell-baby until I established a good nap routine and bedtme, and then it was a whole new world. I was pretty rigid about it, until she started getting more flexible around when she turned two. Before that, every time I would mess with the routine, I would pay, and pay, and pay. I blame it on her being a morning person – she still (at 9 years old) gets up at the same time every morning, no matter how late she goes to bed. I got the same flak from my in-laws, but not so much after she had an extended bedtime tantrum at their house and then they said “what’s the matter with her?”. Doh!

    Second baby WASN’T a morning person, and was a whole different experience. Go figure.

  • Diane

    June 8, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Do what is best for your kid! The rest of the family doesn’t have to deal with the consequences of a kid off his routine. Some babies are more relaxed and don’t need a rigid schedule. I’ve got three, and of the three, the middle one was the one who NEEDED the routine. She still does. The other two? Meh. You can wake them from naps, not be home at bedtime, whatever. Your relatives might have those kinds of kids! If you don’t, you can’t force it, and it’s not worth it. Before you know it, he’ll be transitioning to one nap a day and things will start to relax a bit.

  • Ashley

    June 8, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    This is definitely do what works for you! I was very rigid with my daughter’s sleep schedule until about 2. Now at 3 I am a little more flexible but not a ton.
    I am a SAHM and my world revolves around her schedule. I read Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Baby and he stresses routine and schedules so much. My daughter also would not nap anywhere else but her crib. If she didn’t stick to her schedule she was a bear!
    About 9 months we had a lot of night wakings after moving to just 2 naps a day. We moved her bedtime to 6:30 pm for a few months and it helped so much! She was back to sleeping 12 hours a night. Slowly we pushed it back to 7 and that’s where it stayed until she was 2.5.
    Now at 3 if she doesn’t nap she is in bed by 7:30. With a nap we push it back to 8ish. So if there is something we want to stay out for we do everything possible to get her to nap. If she doesn’t then we just don’t do it.
    Now baby 2 is on the way and I know we aren’t going to be able to be as strict. I am very nervous about how it will all go! I am going to try my best to stick to some kind of schedule but not stress if we can’t. Good luck!

  • JayelleMo

    June 8, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    We are in a very similar situation – except that we DID add a second kid to the mix and you know what changed? Nothing. Our kids (3.5 and 18mo) go to bed early and sleep till the morning – 7-8am, which is awesome for us, since we are not morning people.
    We do break routine occasionally, because sometimes it’s worth it for us. As parents, sometimes getting to be out late with our friends or family is worth a couple of grumpy kids the next day – you have to weigh the benefits over the risk.
    A well rested child is a happy, healthy child!

  • Kacie

    June 9, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Pfft to the nay-sayers. I had a TERRIBLE SLEEPER in my son as a baby. Didn’t sleep all night until 17m, and even then it was rocky. 

    But if he didn’t nap as needed, bedtime was even worse and it was frustrating for all. I caught grief from family about being nap-rigid, but they never had to deal with him when he was horrible.

    Eventually, he grew more (he’s 3.5 now) and going to sleep is way easy. We do our little (portable!) routine and even though he goes to bed while it’s light out during the summer, he’s cool with it.

    All that to say, they grow and they won’t always need their naptimes and bedtimes to be spot-on. Family will get over it. Do what works for you — sounds like you have something that you like, so yay !

    And yeah, the second kid will change it up a little and that’s ok. It’s life! I agree with having the kid fit into your family and not the other way round.

    I think sometimes critics forget that the baby stage really is brief compared to the rest of their childhood. It’s not 6p.m. bedtimes forever. It’s for maybe a few more months.

  • Jenn

    June 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Here’s my take: You’re happy. Your baby is happy. Who cares what other people think?

    Everyone’s saying that you won’t be able to keep up a routine with more kids. What does that have to do with right now? Cross that bridge when you come to it.

    My toddler was (and still is) on almost exactly the same schedule, and I didn’t consider it strict at all, because I wasn’t doing it according to a clock. I put him down for a nap and for bed when he’s tired, and 99% of the time it’s between 6:30-7:30. If I put him down later, he still gets up at the same time, except he’s crabby. So why bother?

  • Candace

    June 9, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    I echo other people. It works for you, it works for your baby. You have a little baby! Babies need sleep and this is such a short period in their lives, everyone else really can get over it. They aren’t raising the little kid.  My in laws always made comments over the early bedtime, and I always responded, well you don’t have to live with him every day, and we do! We do what works for us! Don’t worry about what they think, really, don’t worry.  And we added number two and he still goes to bed between 6 and 6:30 every night, but of course our second came only 15 months after the first, so I have two babies really.  My second only just now is in bed by 7:30, (at two and a half) and they both sleep 12+ hours every.single.night. VERY rare exceptions. If you can accommodate the baby, then do it! There will be YEARS of late bedtimes ahead of you 🙂

  • AmyRenee

    June 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    I agree with others on the “you do what works for you” rule, with one caveat – don’t except everyone else’s schedule to revolve around you. If your family and friends want to push events back so you can be there for a while, that’s very kind of them, but it’s not always going to work out, especially if their family routines involve a kid who naps until 4 pm or a parent who works until 6 pm. If your familiy’s schedule means that you have to leave at 6:00 and you are ok with that, then go with it. If like Amalah, it’s NOT working for you, try varying some things. Try not bathing every night (or switching to just a quick wipedown with a wet washcloth some nights). I agree that it may be better to try a shortened ritual, so you don’t HAVE to go through the whole routine on special occasions. Or if your morning schedule doesn’t have a time that you absolutely HAVE to be somewhere, you could try pushing back bedtime by 15 mintutes every night, and see if he either sleeps in later or naps longer to compensate.
    One last thing to consider, if your family lives close by (which I’m guessing they do if they give you grief often) is to take divide up. Our families only live a few miles away, so sometimes we’ll take 2 cars, so one person can take the kids home and the other can stay later and hang out with their family. Or we’ll arrange for the 2nd person to get dropped off at home by someone who isn’t too far out of the way.
    Or another compromise – will your son sleep in a pack & play? Could you do bath, book, jammies & put to bed in a pack & play in a quiet bedroom so you could stay a little longer?
    And last, I agree with the others that special occasions are worth a Grumpy Gus the next day, but they should be truly special occasions like Christmas or Grandma’s birthday, not just “family picnic in May”

  • Kimtoo

    June 10, 2012 at 1:13 am

    It’s not only the 2nd or 3rd babies that are more flexible, it’s the parents. I used to call my 2nd the “just-a-minute-baby,” because it felt like I’d say that to her all the time. It’s not that you care less – it’s that you realize that a little crying or a little grumpiness is not developmentally damaging or the end of the world. We all have days that we’re a little out of sorts. My family is pretty loose with those things, which is good – it would be very hard for me to stick to a routine, and my second is a happy happy kid who will fall asleep anywhere if she needs it (lucky, huh?)

    What I like best about Amalah’s response is the doing what’s right for the family, rather than one individual, no matter how small. If you are missing out on a later social life, try keeping him out later and see if the family can live with the results. Is he cranky or miserable or making you miserable? Only you can determine if it’s worth it.

  • kimtoo

    June 10, 2012 at 1:15 am

    whoops – that’s your immediate family, meaning those of you who live with this child, not the extended family, who are just glad to see you.

  • Rigid routine Mama

    June 10, 2012 at 1:37 am

    Wow! Thanks everyone for the advice! Amy- I think you are spot on. And it just so happens that we went on a beach weekend(still here) and everything went swimmingly(pun intended). He took epic naps during the day because we kept him out late for fun dinners and we all have managed just fine. Would I want to have him on this schedule every day? No way, he’s way too tired. But it’s nice to know that occasionally we can make exceptions. We ate already planning on keeping him up for the 4th do he can see the fireworks(and we can too!).
    Honestly, I feel like I’m doing the right thing by making sure he’s in bed regularly at a routine time. It does work for us. At least for now, and when it does change…we will figure that out then. Our families drive us crazy about so much, what’s one more thing? And the early bedtime also gives us a much needed excuse for an exit. ;). I will be open to change, especially after hearing from all of you. And until then, I’m going to enjoy peaceful quiet nights with my husband. Thanks all!

  • Kate

    June 11, 2012 at 9:19 am

    I dealt with this A LOT with my first from my in-laws in particular. (apparently, they are of the mind that kids should just fall asleep when they’re tired and bedtimes are ridiculous and that’s what they did when their kids were little… uh huh…anyway…). My first did and still does THRIVE on routine. He practically turned into a pumpkin if we kept him up past 7 p.m. So we rarely did and on the occasions we did keep him up, we paid for it the next day. You have do do what works for your family and try to tune out the noise. With my second (he’s 9 months now) he is clearly a kid who can take more flexibility, but still, I generally enforce a fairly strict nap and bedtime routine. I just think that a kid who is well-rested and on a consistent schedule is happier. Who could argue with that?

  • MR

    June 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Our first daughter was like your child. Sure, we COULD keep her up, but then we would pay for it by having a miserable day for a day or two. Definitely ignore the family rolling their eyes. You do what works for your kid. And if the worst offenders annoy you enough, make arrangements for them to babysit the day after the next get together and don’t leave early. 🙂

  • K

    June 11, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    I don’t really get why everyone is talking about second/third/etc babies and how impooooossible it is to maintain a strict schedule…  she’s just asking about her one and only baby! 
    I think it’s great that she’s so in tune to her baby’s needs. This stage passes by so quickly – her baby will be in elementary school before she blinks, and bargaining to stay awake for 30 extra minutes before she knows it. Stick to what works for now. If you have to bow out of social engagements, and you’re ok with it? Great! Restaurants and parties will always be there, but your baby will be a fullgrown kid before you even blink. Relish the routine while you still can! 

  • Leslie

    June 12, 2012 at 9:13 am

    We always had a very strict 10 pm bedtime for our first as it was the only time that we could be positive that we could be home and get her to bed. Regardless of whatever crazy business was going down during the day, that 10 PM was non-negotiable. And trust me, we are not too strict or nutty about anything – google “chaos muppets” and you’ll get the picture. Of course it seems insanely late, but she has always slept through the night until 8:30 AM or so and she’s now 19 months old. 99% luck? Probably. But I certainly did become concerned that I would have a kindergartner that couldn’t possibly go to bed until 10 PM. Which I wonder if this is one of your concerns? When the routine works so well, are you setting yourself up for total disaster down the road? But it actually turned out with the help of a time change that it shifted to 9 PM very easily maybe 4-5 months ago, and I’m hoping that with Baby 2 in a month or so that we’ll figure out the next step.

    And the family thing? Well, my parents raised four of us while working both working night shifts in healthcare as well as farming, and you would not believe how incredibly bizarre they can be about baby issues. Because it’s a five hour drive to my parents, we generally completely go with the flow when we visit. And of course it is somewhat disastrous at times, but just keep in mind , even after witnessing the horror of a completely exhausted and overwhelmed infant unfold before them, they STILL might not get it. And come up with dozens of bizarre reasons for behavior that is clearly due to NOT NAPPING. So….yeah….I’m totally all for not feeling guilty about being super strict about the bedtime issue. And I’m glad that it sounds like you had some good freak-out free time at the beach past the usual time. I just wouldn’t get too worked up or surprised if, when and if it doesn’t go so well occasionally, that your family still can’t figure it out. It’s totally freaking weird, but sometimes the people that should be the most sensitive and understanding just aren’t.

  • Andrea

    June 13, 2012 at 11:49 am

    I also have strict bedtime to my son and I think that is good. In my case, I believe that my son need more time to sleep because when he’s awake, he is very active. Sleeping time is the moment when our body (adult) repairs and restores itself as well as on the kids. For kids, sleep is their time of growing.   Lack of sleep hinders growth, robbing the body of the vital rest needed for energy to grow. 

    Some people are not aware of this fact or simply ignore it and stick up for what they believe in.

  • Lauren @ T&G

    June 14, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    I agree – IF IT AINT BROKE, DONT FIX IT. I also agree that at some point the baby has to be able to adjust to your lifestyle some, too. With my nephew, I have seen that taken to the extreme. His parents are the type that didn’t want having a baby to change their lives at all. Ummmmm then don’t have a baby? My nephew just went everywhere with them all the time at night, and while it worked great for them, it did not work at all for him and rubbed me the wrong way. 

    And tell your family to mind their own beeswax!

  • Kimberly

    July 17, 2013 at 12:36 am

    I LOVE this article! Thank you. Went through the same thing of having an abbreviated social life, and thank goodness we got the baby to have an adjusted bedtime, so that mommy doesn’t have to sleep at 6pm every night!

  • Terri

    March 11, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    Babies are more resilient than most give them credit.  My parents and aunt & uncle owned their own business.  Many nights my cousins and I would play at the company our parent’s owned and we would fall asleep on palettes while our parents worked late.  The result? The 4 of us could sleep anywhere at anytime.  Even in college people were astounded by the fact that if I was tired it didn’t matter what was going on around me I could curl up in a chair or on a floor and go to sleep.  I can sleep in what others would deem the most uncomfortable positions AND I wake up refreshed and ready to roll.  

  • Ashley

    December 15, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    I couldn’t disagree with Amy more. I firmly believe that babies are babies and that we should not expect them to be slaves to our schedules. I did not have children expecting that I was going to be able to do all the things that I did prior to having children. Do I believe that there are not circumstances with which you adapt? Special events when you may need to rearrange the schedule? Perhaps get a babysitter so you can be there for late events? Absolutely. But as a RULE, I make sure that I am available to put my child to bed at 6 pm every single night. Why? Because she’s happier and healthier. Because her being on an early bedtime schedule helped me to get some semblance of a life back DESPITE having to be available for her bedtime routine. I respect that others feel differently, even though I personally disagree. I expect that same understanding from others in return. I have had several people make comments to me about this, but my child succeeds like this. Why would I change it? We have learned to have friends to our home at night for fun. Or do take out and a movie. Or get a babysitter so we can do late events or attend them… etc. It is not so self limiting that we no longer have a life. In fact just the opposite. As I said before I FIRMLY believe children should not be slaves to our schedules. I commend you for what you are doing for your child.