Whoever decided that starting daylight savings time and the resulting shift of the clocks should be the same week as Halloween, clearly doesn’t have little ones.
Prior to having kids, many of us enjoyed this time change for the simple fact it meant an extra hour in bed – at least until our body clocks assimilated to the “new” time a week or so following. The trouble is, unless your little one is toddler aged or older (where you can use a toddler clock to communicate the new time that everyone will be starting the day) , for the majority of babies it will mean an extra early start on Sunday and several days following.
To be clear, (post time change) babies aren’t waking at this new and obscenely early hour on purpose, they are biologically wired to do so.
Once baby has reached 12-16 weeks of age, a matured circadian rhythm evolves that drives our sleep (among other important processes) resulting in the longest stretches of uninterrupted sleep happening at nighttime, paired with longer stretches of wakefullness over the course of the day. Further to this awake-sleep cycle, comes a natural wake time, a typically consistent bedtime (or readiness for night sleep) and nap times that are (hopefully!) heading in a predictable direction as well.
Daylight Savings Time forces a shift that is felt by baby’s biological clock. An hour is a significant shift and while it might be slightly easier to push back bedtime, that early start to the following day tends to really mess with their ability to stay awake to their typical nap times, resulting in some pretty tired and off-their-rhythm kiddos.
So the question is, how can we encourage a shift in their biological clock and ingrained sleep rhythm, so that their sleep times (importantly their wake time!) will line up with the new post-DST ⏰ time?
👉 Use the power of light/darkness to shift your child’s clock! When baby wakes for the day, give them as much time as you can to remain in their dark and quiet room. This environment will continue to signal to their body that “day” has not yet begun.
👉 Treat any waking (on the “new” time) prior to 5:30 am as a night waking – so tend to them as you feel best or watch via the monitor, but do your best not to try to fix this waking with a feed or other prop that you wouldn’t otherwise offer. Remember, we don’t want to compound early mornings with a lack of consistency in your response.
👉 Once you have them up for the day keep the lights dim, avoid screens & keep the energy level to a minimum until 7 am at the earliest. If you offer a feed prior to 7 am, keep the environment the same – otherwise, offer the first feed of the day 7 am or later (with lights on, sitting by an open window, etc.).
👉 Once they are fed and changed for the day, take them to a brightly lit window or even better, spend some time on your front porch or take a walk around the block. Exposing them to natural daylight will help to “set” their clock on the new time.
👉 Over the first few days, you might find that their typical nap times are thrown off – don’t worry too much about it – if you have to offer sleep earlier than usual or give greater assistance to baby to help them sleep for longer, just go with the flow. We don’t want to be too strict with when or where they are sleeping, let’s just get them as much rest as we can to see them through the first few days when we know they will really be feeling the tug against their prior sleep rhythm.
👉 This is the part that is really key – towards the end of the day, do your very best to get them out and into the final rays of daylight 🌞🌞🌞 Not easy with the darn time change and how much earlier it will be getting dark, but do your best. Once back inside, keep the house bright with lots of lights on until you are nearing the final 30 mins of baby’s day and you begin their bedtime routine. At this point, starting dim the lights, energy level, etc.
👉 Expect the first couple of days to be challenging, but after a few days really start to work to get back onto a predictable routine and schedule.
🖐️ A word of caution if you currently follow an awake window strategy for naps and bedtime. The variability in nap times and bed times that an awake window schedule offers can make it really tricky for babies, especially post-time change. They have a hard time finding the new rhythm because there is so much variation in the timing of their naps day to day and it can lend itself to some really tired babies. A set, by-the-clock schedule however, allows baby to settle into a nice sleep rhythm that supports lengthy night sleep and restorative naps due to its predictability and consistency from one day to the next.
Despite using these tips, post daylight savings time, expect it to take baby a few days to a week to get back on track and for the early mornings to push out. If you find that the early mornings are sticking, then you’ll really want to be mindful that you’re not offering feeding/stimulation too early, as that can have the icky bi-product of setting in the “new” wake time at that super early hour.
Good luck!!! 💤💤💤