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How To Help Your Baby Adjust To Springing Forward

And, what happens if you do nothing at all.

Chances are you have an opinion about Daylight Saving, whether you think we should do away with it altogether, or you’re just happy that springing forward means the sun is up for longer in the evenings. When you become a parent — subject to the whims and moods of your children — you might be wondering how to adjust your baby to spring forward to avoid them being overtired and cranky. Experts say you can take the proactive approach and cut down on tears and tantrums by tinkering with their sleep schedule.

So, how does springing forward affect babies’ and toddlers’ sleep? Just like you may wake up a little groggy that first day or two, your little one may wake up on the wrong side of the bed for a bit.

“Adjusting the clocks forward an hour can cause cranky babies and toddlers, especially if they are used to going to sleep and waking up at the same times every day,” says Dr. Erinn Schmit, M.D., a pediatrician at Children’s of Alabama. “Often kids will wake up at their typical time, and if you try to keep them up that night to put them down at their set bedtime, they can be overtired and have difficulty falling asleep.”

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“When adjusting to a one-hour difference, young children can have disruptions in their sleep routines that can make it harder for them to fall asleep at their usual time. As their sleep patterns shift by one hour, babies may become fussier, and have difficulty napping for a set amount of time or falling and staying asleep at night,” says Dr. Jess Andrade, D.O., pediatrician and Natrol Expert Partner.

How to adjust my baby to spring forward

Whether you think you need to adjust your baby’s bedtime, or you know after surviving a few time changes now with your toddler that you want to be proactive this time, here’s the plan: move bedtime back by 15 minutes a day for four days before the time change. This year, Daylight Savings falls on Sunday, March 10, so you would start making bedtime incrementally earlier on Wednesday, March 6.

“This may be especially helpful for younger kids. Older kids may do better with just ripping off the bandaid, going to bed at their typical time — which will feel like an hour later to them — and getting them up at their typical time as well. It may be helpful to use blackout shades during sleeping hours, especially if you live in an area where the time change means it may still be bright outside when your child should be sleeping,” Schmit says.

You could also start a few weeks in advance, moving bedtime earlier by 15 to 20 minutes, leaving it there for a few days, and then moving it up again, which is what Andrade recommends. “Start adjusting their nap and bedtime schedules in the two to three weeks before the time change. By slowly upping bedtimes by 15 to 20 minutes every few days in the weeks leading up to Daylight Saving, you can better ensure that their sleep stays on track when the time ultimately springs forward,” she says.

In addition to putting up some blackout shades if you need them, Schmit and Andrade recommend lots of playtime in the sunshine during the day and keeping your child’s bedtime routine calming, focusing on screen-free, quiet activities (like taking a bath and reading a book). And, though it’s easier said than done if your little one is a terror when they’re tired, try not to stress too much about the time change. “Our kids pick up on our stress levels,” Schmit says.

How long does it take for baby to adjust to Daylight Saving?

If it’s too late to start adjusting your baby’s sleep schedule, or you just don’t have the bandwidth to do it right now, don’t fret too much. They may take shorter naps, wake up early, or have some trouble falling asleep. But, your baby’s internal clock will readjust in a matter of days.

“Just like adults, if you do nothing and ride out the time change, your kids may be a bit sleepy and cranky for a few days, but their bodies will adjust on their own. Similar to traveling to a different time zone, you can feel ‘off’ for a couple of days but then your own circadian rhythm, including natural production of melatonin when it’s time to go to bed, will catch up,” says Schmit.

Speaking of melatonin, this is not the time to start adding the supplement to your child’s bedtime routine, according to Schmit. “Sometimes parents ask about using melatonin to help adjust their child's sleep schedule. I would not use melatonin unless you have discussed this with your child’s doctor and are using an appropriate dose recommended by their doctor, and this should only be considered in children over age 3.” Andrade seconds this, and says parents should remember that supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and should not be given without a doctor’s guidance.

Whether you start scooching bedtime back the week before springing forward or decide to just ride out the rough patch, just know your baby or toddler will adjust to the time change in a few days.


Dr. Erinn Schmit, M.D., a pediatrician at Children’s of Alabama

Dr. Jess Andrade, D.O., pediatrician and Natrol Expert Partner