Handling Daylight Savings Time: 3 Ways To Prevent “Springing Forward” From Ruining Your Baby or Toddler’s Sleep Schedule

Daylight Saving Time Baby Sleep HelpHappy March, Baby Sleep Site® readers! If you’re anything like me, you’re glad we’ve put February behind us. All that snow and ice and biting cold make the shortest month of the year feel like the longest, in my opinion.

(Of course, if you’re reading this from a tropical location right now, and freezing cold wasn’t part of your February, then I have only one thing to say to you: invite me over next February? ;) )

Now that we’ve entered the month of March, we have something besides ice and snow to occupy our attention: the beginning of Daylight Savings Time. If you’re a U.S. reader, circle March 9th on your calendars; thats the date that DST starts here. If you’re a European reader, then you have a few extra weeks — DST won’t start for you until March 30th.

Whether it’s March 9th or March 30th, however, one thing is certain: if you have a baby or toddler at home, you’ll want to make a plan, so that “springing forward” doesn’t result in too much sleep-and-feeding-schedule craziness.

And we’re here to help you make your plan! Today, we’ll explore 3 options for dealing with the upcoming time change; we’ll also review a short list of general tips for making DST easier on everyone.

3 Scheduling Options To Make “Springing Forward” Easier

What can you do to prevent springing forward from wreaking havoc on your baby or toddler’s schedule? Let’s take a look at your options:

  1. Don’t do anything. This is the best option for parents whose babies or toddlers are currently waking too early. If that’s the case, then simply “go with the flow” of the time change. Do that, and the baby who was waking at 5 a.m. will now wake closer to 6; the toddler who was rising at 6 a.m. probably won’t wake until 7. Early rising problem solved! Meals, nap times, and bedtime will also (probably) adjust themselves accordingly.

    Of course, this isn’t always an option. If your baby or toddler already has a late bedtime, then it might not be feasible to have bedtime happen a whole hour later. Or perhaps you need your child out of bed and ready to go at a certain time each morning. If that’s the case, then letting her sleep in an extra hour won’t be possible.

    This option also won’t work for parents who happen to like their baby or toddler’s current schedule, thank you very much, and don’t want to change it.

    Which brings us to option 2…

  2. Stick to your child’s normal schedule. You’re not actually doing any schedule shifting here; you’re simply observing your baby or toddler’s “old” times for meals, naps, and bedtime. So, for example, if your baby was consistently waking at 7 a.m. before the time change, then wake her at 7 a.m. after the time change (even though 7 a.m. was 6 a.m. just a few days ago.) Similarly, if your toddler was going to bed at 8 p.m. before the time change, then put him to bed at 8 after the time change (even though 8 p.m. was 7 p.m. just a few days ago.) Do the same for naps and meals.

    Make sense? This is definitely more of a schedule-oriented method than a child-oriented method, and you may find that it doesn’t work out perfectly at first. Your baby may not sleep at all when her bedtime rolls around, since her internal clock is telling her that it’s too soon for bed. Or your toddler may be sleepy in the morning, even though you’re waking him at his normal wake-up time, because his internal clock is telling him it’s too early to wake up. Same with naps and meals.

    However, after a few days (or maybe a week), your baby or toddler will probably adjust. And if you really, really want (or need) to preserve your current schedule, then this is the option you’ll probably want to try first.

  3. Split the difference. This is a nice, middle-of-the-road option for parents who can’t let DST shift their schedule by a whole hour but who also know that sticking to the old schedule won’t work. With this option, you shift the schedule by 30 minutes. So, the example scenarios would look like this: if your baby was waking at 7 a.m. before the time change, then wake her at 7:30 after the time change. If your toddler was going to bed at 8 p.m. before the time change, then put him to bed at 8:30 after the time change. Adjust naps and meals by 30 minutes, too.

    You can stick with this schedule long-term, if it works for you. But if you want to get back to your pre-DST schedule, you can do that, too. Simply go with the “split the difference” routine for a few days/weeks; then, shift everything back to its original time. So, in the above scenarios, your baby’s wake time would return to 7 a.m. (as opposed to 7:30 a.m.), and your toddler’s bedtime would go back to 8 p.m. (as opposed to 8:30 p.m.)

    This is a nice way to ease your baby or toddler into the time change. It keeps the “post-DST” schedule pretty consistent with the current schedule, but it also accounts for your baby’s or toddler’s internal clock.

Tips to Remember When Planning for Daylight Savings Time

Regardless of which option you end up choosing, be sure to keep these tips in mind as you create your DST plan:

  • Our internal clocks are powerful things. Some babies’ and toddlers’ internal clocks will be so strong, they’ll defy your carefully-planned schedule. Try as you might, you won’t be able to get your toddler into bed at 8 p.m.; his internal clock will be too busy screaming, “But it’s only 7!” And really, our adult clocks behave the same way, don’t they? In my pre-kid days, I had to wake up for work at 5:30 each weekday morning. And on Saturdays, the one blessed day each week that I had a chance to sleep as late as I wanted, guess what time I usually woke up? Yep. 5:30 a.m.

    I repeat: your child’s internal clock is a powerful thing. So respect it as you create your post-DST schedule.

  • Two things will drive your child’s schedule: sunlight and routine. Simply put, sunlight tells us it’s time to wake up (and stay awake). As we approach summer, and our days start to get longer, and our nights shorter, you may find that the extra sunlight is impacting bedtime (making it later) and wake-up time (making it earlier). If that becomes an issue, consider investing in some good room darkening shades. This’ll help keep your baby or toddler on track, sleep-wise.

    The daily routine will also help create and reinforce your child’s sleep schedule. As you’re working to adjust to DST, remember — now is the time to stick with your predictable, daily routines! Doing so will help your baby or toddler adjust to the time change faster.

  • Most children will adjust quickly, but some will take longer. Most babies and toddlers will adjust to the time change in a week or so. For some though, it may be more like weeks, with an “s”! If that’s the case with your baby or toddler, don’t panic. Simply ride out this season and trust that as long as you stay consistent, things will work themselves out. Of course, if they don’t, you can always contact us for help! Our consultants have helped hundreds of families cope with the time change, and they can help you, too!
     
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How are you planning to cope with the time change? What’s worked for you in the past? Share your strategies and tips with other parents!

 
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Comments

  1. Inna says

    hi,

    i have a 4 1/2 month old and he goes to bed at 7 and wakes up at 6 am. If i want him to wake up at 7, do i need to do anything, or just like you dont do anything ?

  2. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Inna — since we’re “springing ahead”, you can simply do nothing, and you’ll probably find that after DST starts, your baby will wake closer to 7. Of course, there are a lot of variable to consider, and we can’t promise that will absolutely be the case. But the time change should help a bit with the early rising.

    Let us know if it works this way for you, Inna! And thanks for commenting. :)

  3. Kristin says

    My 26 month old goes to bed at 5:30 and up at 4:30. I am hoping to use the time change to put him to bed later at 6:30 (as we are trying to move his bedtime later) and hope he will sleep until 5:30 a.m. Does this make sense?

  4. Jennifer S says

    Our 11 month old son it completely hit or miss with sleeping. He goes to bed at 7pm after a bath, book, and bottle. He naps consistently at 9am-ish for anywhere from 20 min to 1 1/2 hours. He also naps at around 12:30 or 1pm for the same amount of time. H wakes up around 5:30am or 6:30am, after getting up a couple of times through the night. I’d like for him to sleep a little later than 5:30am??

  5. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Kristin — yep! Perfect sense. When we spring forward, 5:30 pm will become 6:30 p.m., and so it should be easy to put him down later.

    @ Jennifer S — you might find that he does sleep a bit later after the time change, simply because when his internal clock registers 5:30 a.m., it’ll actually be 6:30 a.m. Does that make sense?

  6. Jenn says

    Hi – our daughter is 17 months and going through the 18 month sleep regression (at least that’s what’s been identified). She’s getting up earlier now (in the 5 zone!) vs. her typical 6:30. We still wait to get her up and she some how contentedly sits in her crib with her dolls and waits until wake up time. Anyway, this is a great article and I think we too would opt to do nothing. Her bedtime used to be 7 but given crazy napping and early rising it’s been more like 6 or 6:30. So on Sunday bedtime we would be putting her a bed an hour later (well really the same time for her) so instead of 7 the clock would be 8. Then every day after bedtime would be back to 7pm or is it now a new time of 8? Do I have that right? I understand that on Sunday morning her waking at 5:30 will be 6:30 (by the clock) so we are the ones that will feel the hour loss but should I wait to get her up until 7 (ie 6 am to her) if the goal is to return to the 7-7? I just don’t want her to end up losing too much sleep especially with her one nap being unpredictable. I have no idea why this change always trips me up!
    Thanks!

  7. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Jenn — I’d say you have a good plan, in putting her down at 7 p.m. on Sunday night (since it’ll “feel” like 6 p.m. for your daughter). And yes, she’ll probably sleep later on Sunday morning (more like 6 or 6:30, since it’ll “feel” like 5 or 5:30 to her).

    As far as waiting to get her up until 7 — that’s your call. If you want to reinforce 7 a.m. as “rise and shine” time, and if your daughter seems content to sit in her crib and hang out until then, then there’s nothing wrong with doing that.

    Keep us posted on how this works out for you, Jenn! And no worries about being thrown off by the time change; you’re certainly not alone in that. While springing forward tends to be easier on most families than falling back, both are frustrating.

  8. Edith says

    We always try to give the kids a week to adjust slowly to the time change by shifting their bed time and wake time each by 5-10 minutes each day. So, for this week, we’ve been starting bedtime routine 5-10 minutes earlier each night and waking the kids that much earlier the next day (also, as much as possible, we’ve been shifting other schedule indicators like meals and naps). So, by Saturday night, we’ll essentially already be on DST.

  9. Susan Moreland says

    First, Thank You Nicole for all the articles and ideas for well rested babies.. Having constant emails and web articles to read is WAY better than one book. It’s easier to keep on track and stay motivated with sleep issues. Our 10 month old has gotten so much more sleep than our 5 year old did. There is one idea I wanted to share that I have noticed this time around. Our daughter is very sensitive to the activity level and length of time in between naps. If it’s more than 90 minutes, a lingering visitor or a few too many errands, she has a terrible nap or won’t nap at all. Sometimes there is only 60 minutes between first nap and second nap. Second nap and bedtime is only a three hour stretch. If it’s more than that she starts to cry before I can get her in a bath to start the bedtime routine. It has made for some super quick grocery trips and a lot more web ordering, but much more giggles during the day. Thanks again!

  10. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Edith — smart move! That’s another slow and gentle approach that makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing this tip!

    @ Susan Moreland — glad you find the weekly articles so helpful! Feedback like that is so encouraging to our whole team.

    And thanks for this insight into naps. You’re right; some babies are highly sensitive to overtiredness. When that’s the case, parents need to be super attuned to sleep cues. Sounds like you’ve figured that out and have things well in hand — good for you! :)