Yep, just as you got your baby on a nice, predictable schedule, Daylight Savings Time (a friend to no parent) is about to throw you for a loop. Trying to figure out to handle DST as a parent of young kids can be completely unpredictable – there’s really no way of knowing how they are going to handle it until it hits. But, since you know your little one better than anyone else, you can start to plan a bit based on their personality.
If your baby or toddler is pretty easy-going and adaptable, you might not have to do anything at all. They may have a few nights of weird, off-schedule sleep when the time change hits, but after a few days, things might be back on track with no major damage caused.
If your little one is not a predictable sleeper or is particular as opposed to flexible, you might need to put in a bit more work to make the time change more manageable for them (and you!).
We talked to Nicole Johnson from The Baby Sleep Site to get the details on how you should attack the parenting nightmare that is Daylight Savings Time.
“Your baby’s internal clock won’t change along with your household clocks,” Johnson explains. “And while we adults can process the time change and would gladly stay in bed until our normal wake-up time even after we “fall back,” your baby or young toddler will not.
Try moving everything forward 15 minutes at a time and then continue shifting by 15 minutes after the time changes to get back to your original schedule.
“In general,” Johnson says, “we tend to wait until a day or two before the time changes to start moving a baby’s schedule gradually.” Try moving everything forward 15 minutes at a time and then continue shifting by 15 minutes after the time changes to get back to your original schedule.
“For example,” Johnson tells us, “if your baby usually wakes at 6 a.m., and you’d like to keep it that way, work towards having her get up closer to 7 a.m. (and shift everything else ahead, too).” That way, after the time change, she’ll be waking around 6 a.m. again and everything else in her schedule should adjust accordingly as well.
The reason this works is the gradual changes help your baby begin to get used to a new schedule without handing them a big, abrupt change all at once – the latter could lead to a majorly overtired baby, complete with night wakings and nap disruptions.
“Depending on age and flexibility of the child,” Johnson notes, “we sometimes start a week before the time change to change their schedule.”
“For the smoothest transition,” Johnson says, “start at least 3-4 days before the time changes and shift your toddler’s schedule starting with nap time by 15 minutes.” You must shift everything, she emphasizes – meals and sleep periods. “It’s important not to just move bedtime – that can make a mess,” Johnson tells us. And, that’s the last thing any of us want, right?
If your child is already waking up too early, unfortunately, the time change is not going to do you any favors. “And, in this case,” Johnson says, “you definitely don’t want to simply do nothing, as your baby is going to wake close to an hour earlier than usual after the time change.” So, if your baby is normally up at 5 a.m., you can expect a closer-to-4 a.m. wake-up call. Nightmare, indeed.
“Try shifting your child’s schedule forward by small increments in the days leading up to the time change, using the same process outlined earlier,” Johnson notes. If your child is waking at 5 a.m. for example, and you want him to wake at 6 a.m., work towards a 6 a.m. start to the day, and shift everything else forward by an hour, too. “After the time change, you’ll be back to a 5 a.m.(ish) wake-up time,” explains Johnson. From there, you simply work again towards a 6 a.m. start to the day, once the time change is done.
“This might sound like a ton of work,” Johnson says, “but in our experience, it’s so much more palatable than not doing anything and having your baby wake way, way too early instead of just early.”
We definitely can agree with that.