Daylight Saving and Babies
Falling Back and Your Baby's Sleep
In most of the United States, each fall brings the end of Daylight Saving Time. Many parents I speak with have been wondering for a few weeks now what their game plan should be. Funnily enough, before kids, most of us looked forward to this weekend as a chance for an extra hour of sleep. As soon as kids entered the picture, that extra hour of sleep became a thing of the distant past.
One hour of sleep seems pretty insignificant at first, but the reality is that it can throw off your baby's internal clock and result in a cranky, crabby baby for a few days. Let's be honest, even us adults often feel out of sorts at first!
While the time changes may never become fun, with a plan they can become manageable.
The best plan for your family depends on your baby's personality and your schedule.
There are three basic options.
Option A: Do Nothing At All
Some families keep it super simple. They have a summer schedule and a winter schedule. While this is incredibly simple, it is not realistic for many families due to out of the home commitments.
Here's an example:
Summer/Daylight Saving Schedule:
- Wake 7:00 AM
- Nap 12:30 - 2:30 PM
- Bedtime 7:00 PM
Winter/Non-Daylight Saving Schedule:
- Wake 6:00 AM
Nap 11:30 - 1:30 PM
- Bedtime: 6:00 PM
To make this work, you simply do nothing. The Sunday morning of the time change, your baby will wake a clock hour earlier than usual. You proceed with your day, putting your baby down for nap and night at the same intervals as before the time change, only now it will be an hour earlier on the clock.
Option B: Adjust the Day Of
This option is very simple because you don't need to do anything in preparation. It is perfect for moms like me who often forget the time change is here until it is suddenly time change weekend!
On Saturday of time change weekend, go about your schedule as normal. On Sunday, your child will wake up a clock hour earlier than usual. If they typically wake up at 7:00 AM, they will likely wake at 6:00 AM on Sunday.
Then, do your best to hit your typical clock times the rest of the day for naps and bedtime. If you have a very easy going, flexible baby in terms of sleep, you will likely hit those times without much fuss at all.
If your baby tends to be a bit more sensitive and prone to becoming overtired if naps get off track, compromise and offer nap and bedtime a little earlier on the clock than normal.
It may take a few days to fully adjust, but that is normal. Keep an eye out for grumpiness, fussiness, or hyperactivity that can mean your little one is becoming overtired from those early mornings and longer stretches until nap.
If you see this, slow it down and take the transition a bit more slowly.
Option C: Pre-plan For The Transition
This is a great option for sensitive sleepers who get thrown for a big loop by schedule changes.
With this option, you start 5 days before the time change (the Tuesday before) and adjust your baby's schedule later by 10 minutes every day. The idea is that by Saturday night, you will be putting your child down for naps and night a full hour later than usual. Then, when the clock falls back early Sunday morning, your child will magically be back on their usual schedule with no fuss or overtiredness.
It looks like this:
Monday (typical schedule): Wake 7:00, Nap 12:30 - 2:30, Bed 7:00
Tuesday (start adjusting): Wake 7:10, Nap 12:40 - 2:40, Bed 7:10
Wednesday: - Wake 7:20, Nap 12:50 - 2:50, Bed 7:20
Thursday: Wake 7:30, Nap 1:00 - 3:00, Bed 7:30
Friday: Wake 7:40, Nap 1:10 - 3:10, Bed 7:40
Saturday: Wake 7:50, Nap 1:20 - 3:20, Bed 7:50
(cue fall back.....drum roll)
Sunday: Wake 7:00, Nap 12:30 - 2:30, Bed 7:00
Ta-da! You are seamlessly back on your usual schedule. Now, you may be wondering: "But, how to I get my baby to sleep 10 minutes later each morning?". That is a great question.
The simple answer: you don't. Instead, aim to wait 10 minutes longer each day before you go to your baby. This pushes exposure to all of the daytime sights and sounds progressively later and helps to slowly but surely re-set your child's circadian rhythm.
Over several days, as that internal clock adjusts, your baby will begin sleeping later and, in this example, hitting the new 7:00 AM instead of continuing to wake at the old 7:00 AM/ new 6:00 AM.
While this is a great option, it best fits families who have a lot of flexibility in their schedule and aren't strategically placing nap times around school drop-offs and pick-ups or set daycare nap schedules.
Make sure your baby's room is dark enough. Right now, sunrise is around 7:30 AM where I live, and likely similar where you are. That means that, starting with the fall time change, sunrise will suddenly be at 6:30 AM. This means that light will be filtering into your baby's room earlier than he or she is used to.
If you have a light sensitive baby, or have been struggling with early wakings, it can be very helpful to use blackout curtains to darken the room before the time change. Otherwise, the earlier sunrise may lock your baby's internal schedule into those earlier wake times and make them more of a challenge.
The good new is that no matter what you do (or don't do), you and your baby will adjust. Give both of you lots of grace the first few days. The early darkness can throw even the most flexible babies (and adults) for a loop.
So, pick whichever of the 3 options is the best fit for your family and run with it. Some people are planners, some people are not, and one way or another, everyone will manage to come out on the other side of the time change. Give it a week or so and the time change crankiness will be a distant memory until spring when, once again, we move our clocks.
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Are you ready to make sleep a thing at your house, but feel stuck or unsure how? Working with parents 1-1 to take the stress out of baby and toddler sleep is my joy.
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