Ah, the joys of autumn: cooler weather, fuzzy sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, and boots. What else can you expect? Daylight Saving Time. Three simple little words that parents with babies dread. Remember when you used to think ‘Fall Back’ meant an extra hour of sleep’? Not anymore! Just when you think you’ve gotten your baby on something resembling a sleep schedule, this bi-annual event occurs to mess it all up. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Time changes of any kind—jet lag, for example—are hard on kids, and babies in particular, but Daylight Saving Time is both unavoidable and surprisingly painful, despite the fact that it’s a difference of only 60 minutes!
Sleep disturbances like DST aren’t just about baby being cranky for a few days: it can affect their appetite, digestive well being, and more. If your baby is a good sleeper, you’ll probably have an easier time managing the change, but add this hour to the already difficult rest of a baby who doesn’t sleep well and you can expect several frustrating days.
All kids are different and you have to find what works for you and your family, but if this your first (or even 5th) run at managing the time change for Daylight Saving Time, here are a few tips that might help.
Different ways to manage sleep and a time change
The week ahead bedtime method — It’s a universally understood truth that the fact that babies can’t tell time is your saving grace! For the week ahead method, you need to start getting ready five days before DST. How? Each night, put your baby to bed ten minutes later, starting with their current bedtime. Example? If bedtime is normally 7 p.m., put them to bed at 7:10 p.m. the first night, 7:20 the second night and so on until you get to 8 p.m.
After DST, you can return to the 7 p.m. bedtime. The clock will say 7, the body will say 8, but at least it won’t be as much of a shock to the system! It shouldn’t take more than a few days for baby’s internal clock to reset. A baby who has adapted to a fairly tight sleep schedule will react best with this method.
Two day method — If your baby is less affected by sleep changes or changes to their schedule, you can use a quicker change over. Implement bedtime jumps by 30 minutes, instead of 10, so using the example above, it goes from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. the first night and from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. the second night, two days before Daylight Saving Time kicks in. Then, as above, you revert back to 7 p.m. and go from there.
Just do it method — This is only for the truly daring parent: Just put baby down at their usual time ACCORDING to the clock, not their bodies, before DST and after DST. You’ll probably have an early riser for a few days but depending on your child’s attitude toward napping during the day, you might just make it through. All kidding aside, this is sometimes the only way to go, particularly if you don’t usually adhere to a strict sleep schedule.
Tools to help you get baby to sleep, and stay asleep
Changing a sleep schedule, even a little, can be tough, but it’s made easier if you leverage tools that help baby go off to sleep.
First off, make sure their rooms are dark. A room that is well equipped with blackout shades will ensure that your baby adapts to the change to their sleep schedule more quickly. White noise can also be helpful.
Secondly, make sure that they are comfortable, not too warm or cold, and safe in their cribs. Swaddling can give your baby a sense of calm and feeling of safety and security which can translate into helping baby sleep. In particular if you are swaddling:
- Make sure the swaddle is designed so there is never fabric around your baby’s neck and face. It is a safety risk.
- Just like hip joints, shoulder joint development is critical too. Make sure the swaddle you choose does not have any downward pull or constraint on the shoulder joings and allows for freedom of movement around the hip joints as well.
Remember: Sleep begets sleep. If your child is getting enough rest despite some difficulties going down at night, that helps. Cranky, overtired kids actually have a harder time falling asleep than well rested kids, so if they need an extra nap in the days following DST, go for it! You’ll probably enjoy it too!
Hindi Zeidman is an infant mental health clinician and the founder of the Ollie Swaddle. The Ollie Swaddle’s special design and patented fabric helps babies sleep longer and better, decreases fussiness, and helps baby self-calm. Ollie Swaddle’s elasticity allows for freedom of movement while the opening at the bottom makes it easy to change diapers. The custom developed, patented moisture wicking material reduces overheating, promoting physiological regulation. https://