Babies and Daylight Savings Time: could there be a more confusing topic?
“Fall back? Spring forward? Just tell me when to put my kids to bed!”
I hear this a lot, so here is your definitive guide to Day Light Savings Time.
What is Daylight Savings Time, Anyway?
Daylight Savings Time begins in the spring and ends in the fall.
In the spring, we “spring forward” and set our clocks forward one hour. Therefore, we technically lose one hour on the clock.
In the fall, we “fall back” and set our clocks back one hour. Therefore, we gain one hour.
But how does this impact our kids?
Well, since children thrive on routine, even tiny adjustments in their schedules can impact their sleep. Keep reading to learn how to adjust to the time changes.
Parents of early risers love this time of year, at least for a week or so. Why? Because that pesky 5 a.m. wake up turns into a 6 a.m. wake up.
While this time change is typically the least disruptive, it can make bedtime a little more challenging. Imagine usually going to sleep at 7 p.m. and being told to fall asleep an hour earlier. While you might love an early bedtime, your kids will probably fight it!
How to Help Your Baby Adjust When Daylight Savings Time Begins
Ease into it, baby!
If your child is more sensitive to sleep (or younger than 1-year old) you will want to make some changes leading up to the day-of.
I suggest shifting your child’s schedule earlier by 15 minutes every 2-3 days and try to shift meal times as well.
So, if your child normally wakes at 7 a.m., wake her at 6:45 a.m. on the first day of the adjustment period.
If her first nap is at 9 a.m., shift it to 8:45 a.m. Continue adjusting her schedule by 15 minutes each day or so until the day of the time change.
Do nothing in advance, go with the flow, and cross your fingers!
This works great for older babies/kids who aren’t total cranks when a nap is missed or bedtime is a little later than usual.
If you are going this route, simply change the clock ahead an hour after your little one is in bed and proceed like normal the next morning.
But here’s a word of caution: Children who have very strong internal clocks may not be able to fall asleep at nighttime until their “usual” bedtime, and it may take the child a couple of weeks to get back to regularly scheduled programming.
Falling back is typically the more challenging of the two changes, because of parents of early risers find their babes getting up even earlier. Brutal, right?
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On the bright side though, this also means your babe will be ready for bed an hour earlier.
How to Help your Baby Adjust When Daylight Savings Time Ends
Again, there are two options here:
Adjust your child’s schedule the week leading up to the change and shift your child’s schedule later in 15-minute intervals. This way, your child’s routine (including meals) is on the “new” time when the big day rolls around. By stretching by 15 mins every few days, you will make up for that additional hour.
Ensure you leave your child in their crib for 10-15 mins when they wake in the morning and make sure the room is pitch black.
How this would look for a baby on 3 naps:
- Day 1- stretch the 3rd wake time by 15 mins
- Day 3- stretch the last wake time by 15 mins
- Day 5- stretch the 2nd wake time by 15 mins
- Day 7- stretch the first wake time by 15 mins.
- Day 8- your baby will now be waking at her regular time on the clock. Now you can resume the wake times you used prior to the time change.
How this would look for a baby on 2 naps:
- Day 1- stretch the 2nd wake time by 15 mins
- Day 3- stretch the last wake time by 15 mins
- Day 5- stretch the first wake time by 15 mins
- Day 7- stretch the last wake time again by 15 mins.
- Day 8- your baby will not be waking at their regular time on the clock. Again, resume to your pre-DST wake times at this point.
How this would look for a baby on 1 nap:
- Day 1- stretch the last wake time by 15 mins
- Day 3- stretch the first wake time by 15 mins
- Day 5- stretch the last wake time again by 15 mins
- Day 7- stretch the first wake time again by 15 mins
- Day 8- your baby will not be waking at their regular time on the clock. Be sure to resume pre-DST wake times at this point.
This method works best for early risers, babies younger than 8 months old, and children who don’t easily adjust to changes in routine.
Wait until the day of the change to begin the adjustment.
Keep in mind, though, that it will take a few days for your child’s internal clock to get back on track. Stay consistent and she will adjust before you know it.
Again, this method works best for older babies and toddlers who adapt easily to change.
A few more Daylight Savings Time Tips
Keep the Room Dark. And when I say dark, I mean pitch black.
This helps send the message that it’s time to sleep. Having sunlight in the babe’s room at bedtime (during the spring) or early morning (in the fall) will impede melatonin production and make your little one think it’s time to be awake.
Related: Creating the Perfect Sleep Environment
Use Natural Light
In the fall, expose your child to as much natural light as possible throughout the day. This will help push bedtime later. In the spring, dim the lights and shut the blinds to reduce the amount of natural light in the home.
Don’t Rush In
Always leave your baby in her crib until 6 a.m. at the earliest, even if she is now waking up at 5. Getting her out of her crib at 5 a.m. will only prolong the process of adjusting to the new time.
Don’t Let Your Baby Oversleep
Don’t let your child oversleep in the morning. We can’t make a child go to sleep, but we can wake her up and keep her awake, which in turn will help her fall asleep quickly when it’s time.
Remember mamas, this too shall pass! Everyone has a hard time adjusting to daylight savings time, and babies are not an exception. But with a little patience and a good strategy, you and your kids will adjust just fine!
However, if after a few weeks you find that your little one just isn’t adapting, check out my sleep guides, which can help you get back on track!
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