Confession: I totally, completely forgot that daylight saving time ends this weekend. Experts often recommend starting the bedtime transition a couple of weeks early, because kids really thrive on schedules and sleep is precious to them — indeed, a good night's rest is precious to us all. Now that hapless parents like myself are down to the wire, however, the question is: Should you put your baby to bed an hour early when daylight saving time ends?
"One way to make daylight saving time a little easier is to make a gradual change in your child's bedtime," explained Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP in his bestselling book Happiest Baby On The Block. "Shift dinner and bedtime 15 minutes earlier four days ahead of time. Then shift it another 15 minutes two days later, and again 15 minutes earlier" on the day you fall back. Lastly, he suggested another 15-minute shift two days after the change. Even if you don't have the full week or two to implement such an adjustment, you don't have to spring a super early bedtime on your baby all at once. According to Today's Parent, a change of even an hour can impact a baby's circadian rhythms, sort of like jet lag. Personally, I plan to take it slow this weekend.
Some babies aren't terribly sensitive to these rhythms, but others will need a few days to adjust if you wind up putting the baby to bed an hour early. During those days, you can expect overtired behaviors like fussiness, crankiness, and tears. I'm planning to push bedtime back by 15 minutes tonight, and 15 minutes tomorrow. Yes, some sleep will likely be lost in the morning, but I think a small adjustment period is better than none. If you're brave, you can try 30 minutes tonight and 30 minutes tomorrow.
Alternatively, Tracie Kesatie, MA, a Pediatric Sleep Specialist with Rest Well Baby, tells Romper she recommends approaching the change this way:
"Put your child to bed at her regular bedtime the night before the clocks change. Your child is likely to wake up a little earlier than she normally does (possibly one hour earlier according to the new clock). Try your best to start your day after 6 a.m. Plan your activities and meals according to the new time. If your child is still napping, try to make sure she takes a good nap(s) so that she can make it to her regular bedtime according to the new clock ... If you think she cannot make it to her normal bedtime according to the new clock, then move her bedtime by 30 minutes for a few days until she adjusts."
Children's sleep cycles are regulated by an internal clock, and that clock responds to the hormone melatonin. Your body produces more melatonin at night, in response to darkness, and less in the morning, in response to the light. Steve Silvestro, MD, blogger and podcaster at The Child Repair Guide, recommends exposing your child to morning and evening light to naturally reset their internal clock. Eat breakfast by a sunny window, and take a morning walk. When evening comes around, eat dinner beside the same window as the sky darkens, and take an evening walk. Silvestro also advises parents avoid sources of unnatural light while their children adjust to the new schedule, so if tablets, smartphones, television, or the computer are part of child's bedtime routine, switch these devices for a book or a snuggle instead.
Every baby is different, and only you can guess how your baby will react to a new sleep schedule. If your baby is a hardy little one, or if you simply want to bite the bullet, you can put your baby to bed an hour early the night before daylight saving time ends. "With some patience and consistency, your child should adjust to the new time in just a few days," Kesatie explains. If, however, your kid is like mine, try to take advantage of the time you have left to ease the adjustment.
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