Tanya recently told me she has been having trouble with her son going to sleep at night too early, giving her and her husband very little time with him in the evenings, especially since her husband would get home from work only minutes before the little guy would go to bed.
They didn’t really know what to do about it. If you know small children and babies, at that young of an age it is very difficult to alter their sleep cycles outright. The obvious thing to do is to stimulate them to keep them awake, but even this must be done in a certain way because the little things are practically narcoleptic. You could be bouncing the baby on your knee, or in the middle of tickling their feet and they will literally clonk out on you and fall asleep. I have changed my children while in the middle of sleep and they didn’t even bat an eyelash while I pretty much maneuvered them like dolls.
I realize a lot of new parents have this difficulty with their children falling asleep too early and either depriving their parents of bonding time in the evenings, or depriving their parents of sleep because they will then wake up too early in the morning. A trick I had with both my children worked rather well, and since I have mentioned it to Tanya, it worked for her too.
While playful stimulation does not necessarily work, physical stimulation that is slightly jarring can excite the baby enough to keep him awake for a bit longer. When my children were younger and tried going to bed earlier than I wanted them to, I moved their bath time to the time when they decided to sleep.
Small children do not like baths, and will often scream bloody murder in the tub, reacting like cats in the same situation. Obviously they still need to get bathed. Arguably they don’t need a bath every night, but until they readjust their sleep schedules, it doesn’t hurt them, and helps solve the problem.
Even though bath time only lasts a few minutes, they will be wide awake for at least a half an hour to an hour afterwards. If your child is trying to go to sleep several hours before you would like them to, work in increments, readjusting their bath time as necessary (usually half an hour to an hour later each week), until they start falling asleep at regular times.
Yes, all children are different, but this should work for most, and it is definitely worth trying.