In 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.