Your baby has no idea what time it is, yet the two times per year when we make time changes can be a huge adjustment for them. Just as we need to make changes to our life schedule to follow the new times, so do babies. Ultimately, it's not so much the baby that it affects, but the whole family. Who knew one measly hour could change so much!
But it does. Time changes can be rough enough without a baby in the mix, so when you add one in, you can feel like you're in zombieland in the following weeks if you don't prepare your baby ahead of time. Here we'll give you what you need to tackle Daylight Savings Time including:
- Schedule Ideas for the Spring Time Change
- Schedule Ideas for the Fall Time Change
- General Tips for Time Change Adjustments to Go Smoothly
How "Spring"ing Forward Challenges Baby Sleep
Ah, losing an hour. With everyone's busy lives, no one likes to lose an hour of their day. But the extra sun in the evening is enough to make it worth it.
In the spring, we turn our clocks ahead one hour. That means when your baby wakes up on the day of the spring time change, it's actually one hour later. That part really isn't a big deal (as long as you don't have to wake them up early to be somewhere on a Sunday morning.)
It's bedtime that evening where it starts to get more challenging. That's because the clock will say it's baby's bedtime, 7:30 pm for example, but your baby's internal clock will be telling them that it's 6:30 pm. You can understand this, right? It's the same for you.
But that's not all. The next morning poses a new challenge. The clock says it's 7 am and time for your baby to get up so you can go to work, but their body is telling them it's 6 am. With no other choice you have to wake up your very tired baby.
But you'll all get through it! Here are 3 schedule options to get through the spring time change.
Flexing the Schedule to Adjust for the Spring Time Change
You essentially have 3 options to go about this time change. You'll need to choose what works best for your family and lifestyle:
Option 1: Don't change anything.
This method works best for families who don't have a fixed morning schedule. In other words, you're able to let your baby sleep an extra hour in the mornings following the time change.
Baby's old wake time: 7 am
Baby's new wake time: 8 am
And if you don't change a thing, they'll continue to wake up at 8 am going forward. If you're home at that time anyway and don't need to hurry out the door, then this method works great.
Nap times and bedtime will all be one our later, too. This can be their spring/summer bedtime until the next time change.
Option 2: Gradually adjust during the week before.
As someone who worked outside the home and had to get my kids out the door at the same time every morning, this worked best for our family. Here's how you'll do it:
Starting six days before the time change, you'll move everything up by 10 minutes each day. This way, you are only changing baby's wake, nap, and bedtimes by 10 minutes which really won't affect them very much. Here's what it will look like for their waketime each day if they normally wake up at 7 am:
Monday: Normal wake time of 7 am
Tuesday: wake your baby up at 6:50 am
Wednesday: wake at 6:40 am
Thursday: wake at 6:30 am
Friday: wake at 6:20 am
Saturday: wake at 6:10 am
Sunday: Wake at the new time of 7 am (but feels like 6:00 am)
Naps and bedtimes that week will follow the same schedule - starting them 10 minutes earlier each day until the day of the time change.
If you do this, it should make the Sunday when DST starts a piece of cake. The following week will go smoothly and you won't have a tired, cranky baby on your hands.
Option 3: Adjust starting the day of the time change.
The last option is all about ripping off the band-aid. You've dealt with sleep challenges before and gosh darn it you're not going to let a little hour affect your life.
If you're someone who's easygoing, or you have an easygoing baby, this method should work well for you both.
On Sunday, the day you spring forward, Taking Cara Babies suggests waking your baby up 30 minutes early. Even though by the clock it will "look" 30 minutes late, to your baby it will feel as if it's 30 minutes before they're supposed to get up. Here's what the days will look like:
Saturday: Normal wake time of 7 am
Sunday: Wake your baby up at 7:30 am (it will feel like 6:30 to them)
Monday: Wake your baby up at 7 am (it will feel like 6 am to them)
Be sure to make naps and bedtime 30 minutes earlier starting on that Sunday to match what you did for the wake time. Then 30 minutes earlier again on Monday to get them back to their regular schedule based on the clock.
You can see why going this route could bring on challenges. That Monday could be rough as could the next couple of days. At the same time, baby sleep is often erratic anyway, so for some this may not feel like that big of a deal.
How "Fall"ing Back Challenges Baby Sleep
Getting an extra hour in the fall pre-baby has always been pretty great, am I right?! "I don't want an extra hour on the weekend!" said no one ever. But with a baby, it's not as simple, unfortunately.
At the end of daylight savings, when your baby wakes up at their usual time, let's say 7 am, the clock will say it's 6 am. Not a big deal because you're probably ready to get up anyway. The problem is that if you don't do anything differently, your baby will continue to wake up an hour too early going forward. Not ideal.
The day this happens you'll be able to get your baby down at their normal time, which will actually mean an extra hour of peace and quiet as the weekend ends. As lovely as that sounds, remember that your baby is going to be up an hour earlier the next day.
So you'll want to do some shifting of bedtime to prepare in the week ahead to make the days following the fall back change go more smoothly.
Flexing the Schedule to Adjust for the Fall Time Change
When you turn the clocks back in the fall to get an extra hour of sleep, you can choose from similar options as those listed above for springing forward. The difference this time is that everything will be adjusted in the opposite direction.
Here it is in a nutshell since I explained it up above:
Option #1: Don't Change Anything
Baby's old wake time: 7 am
Baby's new wake time: 6 am
If you don't mind waking up early, this will work for you! But remember your baby will go to bed earlier so you'll have an extra hour in the evenings to yourself. This is their new winter schedule and for some families, this works great!
Option #2: Gradually Adjust in the Week Before
In the fall, instead of going backwards by 10 minutes each day, you'll have your baby get up 10 minutes later each day. Since you're wanting them to go later, they might wake up on their own, so we recommend not going in and getting them until the following times on the clock if you can help it:
Monday: Normal wake time of 7 am
Tuesday: wake your baby up at 7:10 am
Wednesday: wake at 7:20 am
Thursday: wake at 7:30 am
Friday: wake at 7:40 am
Saturday: wake at 7:50 am
Sunday: wake at the new time of 7 am (but feels like 8 am)
Remember to adjust nap times and bedtime in the same way.
Option #3: Nighttime Adjustment After the Time Change
Doing the 30-minute weekend adjustments don't work as well in the fall because you're trying to get your baby to sleep longer in the morning for 30 minutes and that's a big difference. It's just too much expectation in a short period of time.
What's going to happen is that your baby is going to be ready for bed when the clock says they should be awake for another hour. Instead of focusing on adjusting your baby's morning routine, you can adjust the bedtime routine following the time change instead.
The week following the time change would look like this:
If baby normally goes to bed at 8 pm...
Day of time change: Put down at 7:10 pm (they'll be ready because it feels like 8:10 to them!)
Monday: down at 7:20 pm
Tuesday: down at 7:30 pm
Wednesday: down at 7:40 pm
Thursday: down at 7:50 pm
Friday: down at 8 pm
Voila! They're back on schedule.
This will also help your baby adjust in the mornings to sleep in a little bit later. It probably won't happen perfectly right away, but this will ensure they don't keep waking up super early in the morning.
Top Tips for Making Time Changes Go Smoothly
Tip # 1: Relax!
Impending time changes can be stressful because you know it means your baby's sleep schedule that you've worked so hard for is going to be disrupted. But remember that this is just a phase that usually works itself out within 1-2 weeks. By following the recommended adjustments your baby will get back on track. Will it go perfectly? Probably not. Expect having to wake up a sleeping baby in the spring (who won't be happy with you for doing so most likely) and a baby who wakes up too early in the fall. It's going to happen. And that's okay! The more relaxed you are about the situation, the happier both you and your baby will be.
Tip #2: Stick with the Routine
Time and time again we've said how important having a solid routine is for bedtime. It signals to your baby that it's time to sleep. Starting those bedtimes a little early in the spring to prepare to move the clocks up an hour will go much more smoothly when you follow your routine. The ones that matter the most include:
- using blackout curtains (as days get longer you may be putting your baby down for bed when it's still light out)
- using a Dreamland Baby weighted sack (or the weighted swaddle if they're not yet rolling over) to induce sleep hormones so baby's body and mind relax
- playing calming music or using white noise to drown out outside noises
- putting your baby down drowsy, but awake
Tip #3: Stay firm
Teaching your baby to be an independent sleeper is really important. In doing so, it ensures that they get the proper sleep they need while you do the same. Sleep transitions that babies go through are challenging for almost every parent. But it's important to stick to the sleep training methods you've utilized during these times. If you revert back to old sleep prop habits (such as rocking your baby to sleep or letting them stay up extra late because it's easier) it's not going to help them adjust to the time change.
You Got This!
And remember, EVERY OTHER PARENT is going through the exact same situation as you at the exact same time! You can't say that about most sleep changes since every baby is their own little person. Solidarity on getting through the time changes...we recommend checking in with all of your best mama friends!