An effort to conserve energy during World War I is what led the US to adopt Daylight Savings. Now, 100 years later, we continue to (unnecessarily, in my opinion!) wreak havoc on our circadian rhythms twice a year. Although there have been movements and occasional uproars asking to eliminate this ritual, Daylight Savings remains a biannual obstacle for everyone - at least for now.
As adults, it creates a feeling of jet-lag. The loss of sleep resulting from the time change has been proven to be bad for our health (both physically and mentally) and has been linked to more frequent car accidents in the week following. But typically, we’re all exhausted and thrown off for a few days and adapt shortly after.
For a baby, the loss of that one hour can have a much more dramatic – and long lasting effect. If they’re already struggling with sleeping well, it can make the nights that much worse. If they wake early, it can make them wake even earlier (though, thankfully “springing forward” can actually help alleviate this one, if done correctly). When babies become overtired, they are much more prone to waking frequently at night, having trouble settling to sleep, napping well and waking earlier in the morning. In essence, what creates temporary grogginess in adults can completely throw a baby’s sleep into a downward spiral. Clearly, whoever was in charge of the creation of this ritual was not a parent!
So, what do you do?
Well, you really have a choice to make here. You can do nothing, and ride the wave. This works well for some babies – typically those who are more adaptable in nature. These babies will often have an off couple of days and then get right back on track.
Or, you can tackle it head on. I strongly recommend this approach if your babies are like mine – persistent, spirited and/or sensitive in nature. If this sounds like your kiddos, you can keep everyone on track and maintain your sanity all at the same time. Here’s what to do:
For “Springing Forward”: starting 5-7 days before the time change, begin to put your little one down 10 minutes earlier each night. For instance, if bedtime is usually at 7:00pm, then the week leading up to the time change would look like this:
Day 1: Bedtime at 7:00pm
Day 2: Bedtime at 6:50pm
Day 3: Bedtime at 6:40pm
Day 4: Bedtime at 6:30pm
Day 5: Bedtime at 6:20pm
Day 6: Bedtime at 6:10pm
Day 7: Bedtime at 6:00pm
Day 8 (Time Change +1): Bedtime at 7:00pm
For “Falling Back” you would use the same approach, but start to put your baby to bed 10 minutes later each night instead.
Day 1: Bedtime at 7:00pm
Day 2: Bedtime at 7:10pm
Day 3: Bedtime at 7:20pm
Day 4: Bedtime at 7:30pm
Day 5: Bedtime at 7:40pm
Day 6: Bedtime at 7:50pm
Day 7: Bedtime at 8:00pm
Day 8 (Time Change -1): Bedtime at 7:00pm
In those days leading up to the time change, you’ll want to shift all aspects of your baby’s schedule. This means that feeding times/meals, naps and beginning the bedtime routine should all shift as well. If at all possible, try to get your baby up in the morning 10 minutes later/earlier as well. This way, on the day of the shift change you have (ideally) moved your baby back to their original schedule.
Make sure to keep your nap and bedtime routines strong throughout the transition. Since it’s natural for babies to be a bit thrown off – even with preparation – keeping their normal sleep routines steady will help provide that same calming environment and cue them for sleep. If necessary, start a bit earlier/later and be sure to incorporate additional calming activities (like baby massage and rocking or book reading and coloring for older children).
Use Props (that don’t involve you!)
Since the sunlight surrounding your baby’s sleep times will be changing, it can be really helpful to use black out blinds in their room. This allows you to control how much light they do or don’t see – and when. I also always recommend using white noise since it keeps your baby in a deeper realm of sleep for longer. Be sure to check out my article here for tips on the most effective ways to use white noise. If you have a toddler who is prone to waking earlier, using a training clock (this one is my favorite) can help to give them a visual cue for when it’s time to wake up in the morning.
As with any schedule shift or setback, remember that it's all temporary. Your consistency and follow through will help everyone get back on track - and back to sleeping better - quickly! For pro-style time change, download my FREE daily plan printable below, stick it up on your fridge and gear up. You got this!
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Jennifer Howard, CLC, CHBE
As a maternal mental health and pediatric sleep expert, I am passionate about helping tired mamas thrive throughout the many seasons of motherhood. I'm a Nationally Certified Professional Life Coach and Masters Level Therapist specializing in parental mental wellness, marriage/partnership strength and pediatric sleep and soothing.
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