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 likely wake ourselves up at our normal wake-up time even after we “spring ahead,” 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 earlier 15 minutes at a time and then continue shifting by 15 minutes after the time changes to get back to your original schedule.
Try moving everything earlier 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 goes to bed at 7pm, and you’d like to keep it that way, work towards having her go to bed closer to 6pm (and shift everything else earlier, too).” That way, after the time change, she’ll be going to bed around 7pm 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 naptime 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?
Toddlers are much less sensitive to time change than babies, so you may not have to do much for them to adjust to the start of Daylight Savings.
As long as you are protecting their sleep environments, they will hopefully be able to keep their same overnight hours of sleep. Some kids even adjust fine without any shifting of schedules at all.
If you notice they’re not adjusting well after the time change, the same principle applies: you’ll just slowly adjust your child’s schedule back to their normal schedule over the course of a few days or a week. So for a nap, your child would go down at 11:45am (vs. 12pm if their nap usually starts at 11am).
You might notice that it doesn’t take many days for their bodies to adjust. But, being proactive never hurts, especially when it comes to sleep.
After all, when the kids sleep well, everyone sleeps well, right?