Oh, the joys of fall! The leaves are turning color, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back, and the air is getting crisper. But for parents of young children, fall also means the dreaded daylight saving time change.
Babies and toddlers have a hard time adjusting to time changes, and they may wake up early for several days after the clocks are set back. But don’t worry, there are a few things you can do to help your little one adjust.
There are 2 ways you can approach time change:
*Gradually shift the sleep schedule the week prior to time change
*Take it head on and make the shifts the day of (like we typically do as adults)
INTENTIONAL, GRADAUAL PLAN
The best plan for younger babies is to start shifting your child’s sleep schedule a few days before the time change. This will help their body get used to the new schedule gradually. But, we call it the “intentional plan” because this is what many parents intend to do, but either forget, start too late, or decide not to follow through with- no judgment!
Here’s how to do it:
- Start by shifting bedtime back by 15 minutes each night.
- Do the same thing for the first nap of the day.
- Continue shifting bedtime and nap times back by 15 minutes each day until you reach the new schedule.
For example, if your child’s bedtime is 7:00 PM and their first nap is at 8:30 AM, you would shift bedtime to 7:15 PM and the first nap to 8:45 AM on the first day. The next day, you would shift bedtime to 7:30 PM and the first nap to 9:00 AM. And so on.
Here’s what that might look like:
Tuesday: Normal bedtime at 7:00 pm
Wednesday: Shift bedtime to 7:15 p.m.
Thursday: Adjust the first nap to be 15 minutes later (8:45 am), AND bedtime is now 7:30
Friday: The first nap will be another 15 minutes later (9 am). Bedtime at 7:45
Saturday: The first nap will be at 9:15 am and bedtime will be at 8:00.
Sunday morning the clocks will be an hour back. So, if your baby adjusts to this plan, they’ll wake around a normal time. From this point forward stick with what the clock says as much as possible.
If your baby is still struggling, then focus on anchoring the first nap of the day (described more below).
Younger babies (under 6-8 months) often respond well to this plan, as they tend not to do well with large shifts (as described below).
FACING TIME CHANGE HEAD ON aka “Winging it”
This is for older babies and families that are just going to “wing it.” F
Here’s what having no plan looks like:
On the day of the time change your baby or toddler will wake early (6:00 am feels like 7:00 am to them). Do your best to stretch them to the regular times based on the clock- not their “old” time. This will take about 3 days for them to resettle- exactly as it does for us.
“Anchoring” the first nap according to the clock can help keep your schedule set and build a new schedule. This means, that if your child’s first nap used to be 9 am, then keep it as close to 9 am as possible to help your baby make the shift to the new schedule- even if your baby woke earlier than normal.
If they can’t quite reach their regular times, that’s ok! They will settle out in the next few days.
Remember, it takes time for everyone to adjust to a new sleep schedule. Be patient with your child and yourself.
Here are a few more tips to help your child adjust to the daylight-saving time change:
- Expose your child to natural light in the morning, get them outdoors, and expose them to natural light again in the evening. This will help regulate their circadian rhythm
- Stick to a consistent routine. This will help your child feel secure and know what to expect.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine. This could include a bath, a story, and a cuddle.
- Make sure your child’s bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. This will help them to sleep soundly.
And most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy your Pumpkin Spice Lattes!