How to Make Daylight Savings Work For You and Your Baby

Baby Feet Daylight SavingsIn the Fall, I start getting Daylight Savings questions up to a month prior, but not in the Spring. Ironically, before you have kids, you look forward to Daylight Savings in the Fall because we gain an hour, but in reality, it only means your baby will wake an hour earlier (gasp!). This week Daylight Savings starts and we “Spring Forward” which means most of us are looking forward to our children sleeping in, even though we lose an hour. Unfortunately, it also means your baby’s sleep can suffer.

Last year, I wrote a Daylight Savings tips article on WorkingMother.com, so I won’t rehash those in detail here. Instead, this article will be about how you can ensure your early riser can stay a later riser and you can “ride the wave” of the time change. If you want your baby to adjust back to her normal schedule, the tips in the article should help. If you have to adjust your baby back to her normal schedule such as waking her for daycare, be prepared for a little crankiness and tiredness, but it should only be a few days until she adjusts, just like a trip from Chicago to New York.

The #1 thing to keep in mind about Daylight Savings for your baby who is waking too early is she is losing an hour of her day (as well as you). This is important to understand because it is already hard to find the right nap or bedtime and with the time change, it can be even trickier. Effectively, the time change is like jet lag if you were to travel one time zone ahead of you. Because our internal clocks are “set” to be asleep or awake at certain times, following the clock as closely as you can (using the new time) on the day after the time change can help immensely. But, this means you must change your whole routine, not just sleep times. There are many things that cue your baby into a schedule or routine such as the sunrise, meal times, the time you take her out for a walk, and so on. So, if your baby wakes at 6 a.m. and her nap is usually at 8 a.m., on the day of the time change, put her down at 9 a.m. and so on. I do want to set appropriate expectations, though.

If you are trying to encourage your baby to wake at 6 a.m. rather than 5 a.m., you will be able to keep her on the “later” (I use that term loosely) schedule as long as your baby is napping well and you are keeping her from being overtired at night. Over-tiredness at bedtime is the #1 reason for waking too early. Of course, you can’t expect a baby to go to bed at 5 p.m. and she sleep much past 5 a.m., if that, either. However, if you are are a night owl and are trying to get your baby to wake at 8 a.m. rather than 7 a.m., you may not be as successful with taking advantage of the time change. This is because the sunlight or unnatural light helps to “set” our internal clocks to be awake. One of the primary goals of Daylight Savings is to extend our daytime hours, which automatically leads to a later bedtime in the summer (I get a LOT of questions about this starting in June!).

Here are some sleep tips for your baby to continue to sleep later after daylight savings:

  • Change your daytime routines to be an hour later, not just sleep
  • Ensure your baby naps at least one hour for each nap (except for the third nap of the day for babies taking three naps)
  • Make sure you set bedtime to be the new time HOWEVER if your bedtime was too late before, make it earlier than the new clock time (which is still later than the old)
  • If you don’t already have them, try room-darkening blinds/curtains
  • Ensure your baby is eating enough during the day

Some babies and people, in general, are natural early risers (there’s a gene), so only some can successfully sleep late. However, most can learn to sleep past the crack of dawn. I remember when my son was around 8-9 months old, he was waking in the 5 o’clock hour and it was killing me! So, I worked with him and successfully pushed his routines later until he was waking between 6:30 and 7 a.m. (at one point we even got to 8 a.m.!) IF you find yourself back to an early rising a week or two after the time changes and your baby is older than 6-8 months old, consider shifting his schedule.

If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 40 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.

What are you most worried about with Daylight Savings?

Spring Forward, Sleep Awareness Week, and a Giveaway!

Happy National Sleep Awareness Week! Oh, you don’t celebrate this holiday? Well, technically, neither do I.

I make it a point all year round to stress the importance healthy sleep habits for our families. I can bet that because you’re a parent who has come to this site, that you have learned (maybe the hard way) just how sleep deprivation takes a toll on your mind, body, and soul, and how your baby’s development flourishes when he’s getting enough rest. In a sleep-deprived state you aren’t as alert, probably more cranky, less energetic to play with your kids, and probably angry more often. You might even be depressed. It might even affect your marriage. You might even feel like you don’t like your baby some days. I hear all this and more, and I feel for each and every one of you!

The National Sleep Foundation is a big promoter of National Sleep Awareness Week and has released their “Sleep in America” poll results today. They studied four different ethnic groups and their sleep habits and attitudes towards sleep. Interestingly enough, in all four groups, only 4 in 10 said they get a good night sleep every night or almost every night. I suspect that if they studied parents, this number would be even lower! Another interesting result of the poll is that most adults believe their sleep issues will go away on their own over time. I would say this is true a lot of time about parents and their child’s sleep issues: that you believe (or hope) the issues will go away over time. Oh how I wish that was always the case! You can read more 2010 Sleep and Ethnicity Poll Results here.

National Sleep Awareness Week ends with a bang with Daylight Savings starting this weekend (if you are in the U.S.). We “Spring Forward” and lose one precious hour of our day. I know some of you might be jumping for joy when your 5 a.m. riser will now be waking past 6 a.m., but I also know some of you know that schedule changes always seem to set you and your family back. If you are worried about the time change or want to know what to expect from your baby or toddler this summer when it stays light later, please review your Spring Forward with Child Sleep Tips on WorkingMother.com, written by yours truly.

But, wait! There’s more!

I can’t let this week go by without giving you an opportunity to get more sleep for you and your family, so in honor of “Spring Forward” and National Sleep Awareness Week, I’m doing a quick and easy giveaway. Comment with a brief description of your sleep story by Sunday, March 14th at 11:59 p.m. below for a chance to win:

1. A one-week unlimited e-mail consultation package (Value $79)
2. A five-email consultation package (Value $49.95)
3. A copy of Mastering Naps & Schedules(Value $24) (Giving away two!)
4. A copy of Help Your Child Sleep, a Step by Step Guide(Value $27) (Giving away two!)
5. A 3-month membership to the Members Area, which includes access to all e-Books, case studies, tele-seminars, and much more! (Value $24) (Giving away two!)

I will be reading your story and trying to find the most apropos family for each prize, so I can really make a difference in your lives. Good luck and happy sleeping!

Daylight Savings Follow-Up

So, how did your time change go? Have your babies adjusted yet? I, the sleep obsessed, messed up my own children’s schedule on the day after the time change. D’oh! Here’s what happened…

As expected, my kids woke up “one hour early” with the time change. Not a surprise because their internal clock doesn’t know what our digital clock says, right? So, we went about our day and my goal was to put the boys to bed 1/2 hour later than their internal clock and 1/2 hour early on the digital clock. So, I decide to go out to an early 5pm dinner with a friend, her husband and their baby boy to make it easier for the kids to stay awake being out and about. The kids did GREAT at dinner…all 3 of them. It was great! But, the one problem was we waited 10 minutes for a table and the server was sloooow, so we ended up not getting home until after 7pm! D’oh! So, in actuality my sons both went to bed WAAAAY later than I intended by almost an hour. *sigh*

Both boys seem to talk to each other and were up at 5:50 yesterday morning, which was 20 minutes later than the day before, and at 6:10 this morning, so they are going in the right direction. It does take a few days for most kids. My younger son made up for the late bedtime on Sunday with a 50 minute morning nap and 3 hour afternoon nap yesterday and was asleep in bed by 6:45 last night. My eldest was asleep by 7:30 (doesn’t nap anymore but almost fell asleep during his 1 hour rest-time, which for us is a no-no because it makes him stay up past 9 or 10 p.m. at night). I’m expecting a post 6:15 a.m. waking tomorrow, so we should be back on track.

All this to show you that even someone who is obsessed with sleep can make mistakes sometimes and things do just happen. I know a lot of parents out there really kick themselves and I feel for them when they contact me and say things like “I know I messed up” and I tell them it’s really okay. Everything WILL be okay. If something goes wrong, just make changes for the next time. Now, in the past, my mistake (you know because going out to dinner is so risky when you have a challenging sleeper LOL) would have been HUGE because one slip up with my eldest when he was a baby would set us back about a week or more, but now that he’s older, things are sooo much easier and my youngest is definitely more adaptable. Phew! My eldest son is having some behavior issues, so it still does affect him somewhat, still.

The highlight of my day, yesterday, was I received an update from one of my clients whom I’ve been helping for over 2 weeks because her daughter had been getting up at 6 a.m. and she did not want the time change to bump them back to 5 a.m. I was happy to hear that her daughter happily slept until 6:30 a.m., the new time, Sunday. I was ecstatic as shifting schedules is not always easy and she worked really hard for the past 2 weeks to make it happen. I’m so happy for her!

If your child is still having trouble adjusting to the new schedule, make sure you encourage them to stay in bed and in the dark, as the light stimulating our eyes cues us when it’s time to get up and it’s easy to get into a rut of waking at 5 a.m. every day. Hang in there!

How is the time change going for you?

Baby Sleep, Daylight Savings and Time Changes

Here in the U.S. (in most states), we are going to be “falling back” (changing our clocks one hour back) this year on Sunday, November 2, 2008. In Europe, they will be changing their clocks the last Sunday in October, or October 27th. The reason we have Daylight Savings is that it allows us to use less energy in lighting our homes by having longer and later daylight hours. Whether you are changing the clocks or traveling with baby through time zones, most parents want to know what to do with their baby’s sleep when the clock says one time and baby says another.

For some, they are anxious for the time change to happen because their baby is going to bed too late, but other parents are freaking out because their baby or toddler is already waking too early and now the clock will say it’s even earlier!

What strategies can you use to handle the time change?

The first option is to do nothing. Your baby is waking at 7 a.m. and going to bed at 7 p.m. The day the clock changes, it will say 6 a.m., but it really is no different than the day before. You will stick to the same schedule and put him to bed when the clock says 7 p.m. that night, which, to him, will really be 8 p.m. For babies or toddlers who are not sensitive to being overtired or go with the flow, this is a fine strategy and within a day or two, he will be all set and re-settle into the same schedule. If your baby is an early bird (lark) who wakes up at 5 a.m., for example, he will fall back to the normal routine of waking at 5 a.m. after a few days to a week and if you are happy with that, I would simply suggest going with this option and planning to wake up at 4 a.m. for a few days.

The second option is to slowly change your baby or toddler’s schedule over the course of a few days before the time changes. On Wednesday, before your time changes, put your baby or toddler to bed 15 minutes later than normal in hopes that he wakes up 15 minutes later in the morning (I can’t promise that will happen because of our internal clocks, but it does work for many). Also, offer him naps 15 minutes later. Keep putting him to bed 15 minutes later each night until the night of the time change. By the time the clock changes, you would have shifted his schedule by 1 hour, the clock will change, and you will be back to your normal schedule. Unfortunately, this option can have a rippling bad effect on babies or toddlers who are sensitive to becoming overtired, possibly leading to crankiness, early morning wake-up, night-wakings and short naps.

The third option is to stick to the regular schedule leading up to the time change and once the time changes, be flexible and alter the schedule only as much as she can handle. The first night, you may only get to a 6:30 p.m. bedtime, for example, and she will go to bed earlier than normal (clock-wise). It’s the light that stimulates our eyes and sets our internal clock as to when we should sleep or not, so after a few days, she should re-settle into her normal schedule. Unfortunately, this option is really hard on those with babies or toddlers who are already waking up at 5 a.m. You may want to consider shifting your baby or toddler’s schedule in the 3 weeks leading up to the time change and, again, a week after the time change (if you do not like the 5 a.m. wake-up).

There are a variety of things you can do that fall somewhere in between any of these options, but these are the main options you have. If you’d like help with a custom solution for your unique baby, please contact me by purchasing my baby sleep consulting services. I’d love to help you!

How have you handled time changes in the past that has worked?