I was never really strict on sleep or eating schedules. When my baby was hungry, she ate. When she was tired, she slept. A few months ago, my husband and I started to feel the strain of our (now) 15 month old's sleeping habits. She would take two naps a day, one around 1pm, and the other around...6pm. Which meant that she was not tired again until 11pm - at the earliest.
We thought it was great for the first year. We're night owls; we love to sleep in. And having our baby sleep until 10am with us was seriously awesome. But the late nights with a wide-awake toddler were getting to be a little too much.
I had "tried" to put her to bed earlier a few times. But honestly, I wasn't serious about it. That's why it didn't work. So I'd like to share what worked for us to put our baby to bed earlier.
1) The first thing we started to do was wake her up around 8/8:30am. This was hard. It created a few miserable days for us. She was mad to be up early, she was crabby until her nap, etc. But we had to start setting her cycle earlier.
2) Consistent naptime. By noon, she was exhausted. So every day, after lunch she would sleep soundly for a couple hours. After she woke up, we did not allow any more naps till bedtime.
3) When she started getting sleepy at night, we followed our consistent, repetitive, and predictable nighttime routine. I gave myself an hour every night for this. I gave her a bath, a nice little massage with coconut oil, some snacks, nursing, read books, prayers, and then lights off.
4) Being so tired, she fell asleep with ease. But 40 minutes later, she would wake up. Instead of doing what we would normally do (let her get up and play), we went into the bedroom, kept the light off, and continued to lay her down.
The first few nights were very difficult and frustrating. (Let me emphasize that word very.) Hey, in her mind, she took her nap and wanted to be up! My husband and I would take turns in the bedroom with her until she fell back to sleep. The key was to keep the lights off and lay her down.
On the fourth night, we saw a change. She fell back to sleep much faster than the first nights. The next night, even shorter. Within one week, Little Olive knew what to expect every night. She learned it was bedtime, and that we meant it.
I had heard it before, but never took it seriously, that a bedtime routine is necessary. I firmly believe in that now. I notice that when I slip a little and let her sleep late or skip the bath, she has a harder time at night. I don't believe she is being "bad" at all; she just needs her routine to go to bed.
If you have other tips or ideas, feel free to share!