The end of Daylight Savings, when we turn our clocks back one hour, is probably one of the biggest worries for parents of young babies. I start getting questions about the time change up to a month ahead of time and understandably so. If your baby is already waking too early, just the thought of your baby waking an hour earlier is enough to make the calmest parent have a few butterflies. If you’re like me who obsesses about sleep (how else could I write about this every week?), it wouldn’t be surprising if you feel extra anxious about your 5 a.m. waker-upper waking up at 4 a.m. This article will help you survive Daylight Savings 2010.
Daylight savings ends in Europe this weekend on October 31st and on November 7th here in the United States (most of them anyway). For those of you who have an early riser, you may want to start working on your baby’s schedule, now. If your baby is 6 months or older and isn’t napping well enough, you may want to help your baby nap longer and get on a schedule in the next week, so when the time changes you will be able to adjust easier, keeping your baby from getting overtired. When your baby is already taking short naps, it’s very difficult to put them to bed at their normal bedtime, now an hour later than usual. Better napping means an easier transition.
You have three options to handle the time change when Daylight Savings ends, as I went over in my article Time Change Sleeping Tips on WorkingMother.com. The key to choosing the best strategy is your baby’s sensitivity to being overtired. If your baby isn’t overly sensitive to being overtired and is not already waking up before dawn, you might just “go with the flow” and wait for the time to change. Many babies will adjust within a few days to a week, just like we do. You will likely have to wake up “earlier” for a few days, since babies tend to sleep in less than adults, though.
If your baby is already waking up too early in the morning, in relation to your ideal family schedule, I’d recommend doing some preemptive work ahead of time to ease the transition. Moving your baby’s schedule isn’t always easy, but in the next week or two, you can successfully move your baby’s schedule forward by an hour and then move it again, if necessary, to achieve your family’s ideal schedule. For example, your baby may be waking at 5 a.m., you’d like her to wake at 6 a.m. or later, so you can move her schedule forward one hour to 6 a.m., wait for the time to change (where she will be waking at 5 a.m. once again) and then move her schedule forward again. This works best when your baby is at least 8 months old, but some 6 month old schedules can be moved as well. Younger babies generally will adjust naturally within a few days to two weeks as long as you don’t strictly stick to the earlier schedule (a young baby’s sleep is already highly disorganized). If you are interested, I go over detailed steps (with examples) to moving your baby’s schedule in my pamphlet called Shift Your Baby’s Schedule (I know not a very original title, but I’ve found that tired parents don’t always enjoy clever. They just want answers, which I try to provide straight and to-the-point in all my e-Books). I’ve included a case study that followed one family’s schedule shift whom I worked with one-on-one.
For some babies, they will follow a combination of the abrupt time change and a gradual shift. The main thing to remember is that a too-late bedtime can cause over-tiredness leading to an even EARLIER wake-up time in the morning, which will make Daylight Savings even more difficult to manage. Remember that the new 7 p.m. is the old 8 p.m. and can likely have a adverse effect on your baby’s schedule. Rather than follow what your friends might be doing, make sure you take into consideration your baby’s sensitivity and adaptability when tackling the end of Daylight Savings. And, if your baby is already struggling to sleep, there is no time like the present to make the time change the time to make a change.