Yep, just as you got your baby on a nice, predictable schedule, the end of Daylight Savings Time (AKA “fall back”) 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.
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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—read her best tips and tricks below!
How to Handle Daylight Savings with Babies
“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 adapt to our normal wake-up time even after we ‘fall back’ your baby or young toddler will not.”
“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 up 15 minutes at a time—naptimes, feedings, bedtimes—and then continue shifting by 15 minutes after the time changes to get back to your original schedule.
Try moving everything up 15 minutes at a time and then continue shifting by 15 minutes after the time changes to get back to your original schedule.
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.
How to Handle Daylight Savings with Toddlers
“Depending on age and flexibility of the child,” Johnson notes, “we sometimes start a week before the time change to change their schedule.” She also shared these tips for the smoothest transition:
- 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—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 baby is normally up at 5 a.m. you can expect a closer to 4 a.m. wake-up call after the time change, which will also shift bedtime an hour earlier. Keep a close eye on naps and bedtimes to ensure that the overtiredness doesn’t lead to even more disruptions and early wakings. “See if your baby or toddler will take an extra catnap during the day to take the edge off of the over-tiredness and get her back on track at bedtime,” suggests Johnson.
“If you are trying to encourage your baby to wake at 6 a.m. rather than 5 a.m., you will be able to keep her on the ‘later’ (I use that term loosely) schedule as long as your baby is napping well and you are keeping her from being overtired at night,” says Johnson.
“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 continue having her wake way too early.”
We definitely can agree with that.
This article was originally published in 2020 and has been updated for timeliness.