It seems like the winter holidays just ended, and it’s already on the horizon — Daylight Saving Time! In the US, we spring forward on Sunday, March 10, and it’s Sunday, March 31 in Europe. The week afterwards is usually one where everyone feels a little tired and cranky, or just a little “off”.
Nobody feels it the way babies and small children do. They’re the least likely to understand why, and the most likely to be upset. But with a little preparation, you can transition your little ones to their new schedule before the change hits, leaving you with a well-rested baby even when the clock jumps ahead. Here are some tips on how to move to your new spring schedule with ease:
1. Transition Slowly
For some children (especially young babies), making the one-hour change will be overwhelming. A slow transition to the new bedtime before the actual time change can make spring just a little easier. The idea here is to adjust everything earlier before the actual time change. That way when 6 p.m. becomes 7 p.m., your child will already be used to the new schedule.
About a week before the time change, begin putting your child to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier, moving the time back every few days until you reach a full hour. A week ahead usually works best. So, if your child has a 7:00 p.m. bedtime, you want to begin with bedtime around 6:40 p.m., then 6:20 p.m., then 6:00 p.m.
2. Make Naps a Priority
One of the best ways to prepare your child for Daylight Saving Time is to make sure they are getting good naps for the few days before the time shift. This will help take the edge off of the discomfort associated with the upcoming changes.
You want to set them up for success by ensuring they are well-napped so that they are not extra cranky headed into this weekend. Moving naps back 15 minutes at a time along with their bedtime will help keep their schedule consistent.
3. Consider Blackout Curtains
To help your baby sleep more soundly, consider installing blackout curtains and using a sound machine. This will help all summer! It’s important to maintain their bedtime all year, but summer can be difficult when it stays light very late.
4. Use Dramatic Wake-ups
While you’re moving backwards before the change, your baby may begin waking early. Remember that waking an hour earlier will be the goal, so if it’s just an hour, great!
If it’s more than an hour, consider using The Shuffle to encourage your child back to sleep in the morning. Follow that with a “dramatic wake-up”, where you go into their room at the appropriate time, open the shades, turn on the lights, and give a cheerful, “good morning!”
5. Watch Wakeful Windows
With both naps and bedtime, be sure to pay close attention to your baby’s wakeful windows. If you’ve moved naps backwards along with bedtime, you’ll need to maintain the same amount of time between naps and bedtime. For example, if your 6-month-old starts her morning nap an hour early and then wakes up early, you’ll have to put her down for her afternoon nap early. The end result is the same amount of time between periods of sleep.
6. Get Outside
Take your baby outside first thing in the morning, or if it’s too cold, open the windows and let in some natural light. If there is little light in the morning early on, turn on the lights and make sure to either get outside later on for some sun. This will help “reset” her internal clock.
7. Flexible Schedule
Be as consistent as possible with your baby’s food and sleep schedule. This means that you need to shift all meals, snacks, and naps earlier as well. Watch the clock to stay on the new schedule of 15-20 minutes earlier, depending on what you’ve done with bedtime. Don’t forget to wake your child a bit earlier to help with this transition schedule.
Adjust all meals, snacks, and naps to fit the “new” schedule on the same day that you shift to your child’s new, fully-adjusted bedtime.
8. Age Appropriate Bedtime
A time change is a great time for a “reset” if you’ve been a little off your schedule. Infants and babies do best with a bedtime between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. If things have been sliding a little, a time change is a great opportunity to gradually move their bedtime to an ideal hour. Take advantage of this short disruption to get on track!
9. Soothing Bedtime Routine
Babies and young children thrive on routine. Most likely you have a set of activities that communicate to your child that it’s time to get ready for sleep. A bath, story, jammies on, a kiss and a song — these will all need to move back in order to make up for that lost hour. Like the bedtime, move the routine backwards during the week before Daylight Saving.
This is also a great opportunity to start a routine that calms and soothes, or to shorten your routine if it has become too long.
The Alternative: Doing Nothing
Adults and older children may be successful going “cold turkey” and just moving the clocks on the Sunday of DST. Undoubtedly, everyone feels it for at least a week when done this way. But with young children, a little planning the week before can make things much easier after the change. If you do decide on this method, be sure that you get outside to the sun the morning afterwards to help re-set everyone’s internal clocks. Naps and bedtime will then all be according to the new time.