Here's How To Help Baby Adjust To Spring Forward
Good news: you don’t have to dread Daylight Savings Time.
An event that every parent of a small child dreads is approaching: Daylight Saving Time. Sure, Daylight Saving Time (DST) advances us forward one hour, ultimately offering a little more sunshine each day and promising that the end of winter is near, but it also wrecks havoc on little ones. Learning how to help your baby adjust to “spring forward” can feel downright daunting. You might worry that losing in hour will knock baby off of their routine, cause them to feel overtired, or make them wake up even earlier than they already do, none of which is exactly ideal.
And, to be honest, your concerns are valid. Research has shown that the effects of losing an hour of the day are bad enough to make experts advise that we get rid of the process altogether. Springing forward can cause sleep loss and leave people at a greater risk of mood disturbance, suicide, and being involved in car accidents. If DST can leave adults feeling jetlagged and groggy, it likely does the same to babies and little kids.
Of course, everyone is different, meaning everyone feels the effects of DST differently. Some babies don’t seem bothered by it at all, while others may change up their entire sleep schedule because of it. While you can’t control DST, you can control the way you prepare for it, and that actually can make a big difference. Learn how to help your baby adjust to springing forward so that it can be an easier day for everyone.
How to prepare to help baby adjust to spring forward
The best thing you can do to help your little one adjust to the time change? Make sure they’re well rested, says Patti Read, pediatric sleep consultant and owner of Goldilocks Sleep Solutions. “Anytime a little one is well rested, everything becomes less of an issue and they are, usually, much more flexible when it comes to sleep schedules. So, over the next couple of weeks, make sure to practice good sleep hygiene with your little one and keep an age appropriate bedtime.”
You can also prepare by turning this into a more gradual change rather than an abrupt one. This does require a week of schedule tweaking, but it might be worth it in the end. Shift their daily sleep schedule by 15 minute increments one week ahead of the actual time change, Read suggests. “So the Monday before DST move everything earlier by 15 minutes (a normal wake up time of 7AM would turn into 6:45AM, a 1PM nap would turn into 12:45PM, etc.),” she says. Do this again on Wednesday and then again on Friday.
“When Sunday comes and the world’s clock changes, shift another 15 minutes to your little one’s old wake time on the clock,” Read continues. “This way your family will only feel like it’s 15 minutes off, rather than an hour off.”
What will happen if you don’t prepare for Daylight Saving Time?
As Read notes, any time a baby’s sleep routine or schedule is changed, there’s a possibility that their sleep is going to be thrown off (meaning you’ll be waking up more). And on DST, you’re basically guaranteed a schedule change. So, if you forgot to prepare, are you just doomed?
Sort of, but it’s not the end of the world. If you do no preparation and put your baby down at their normal sleep time, based on the “new” clock time, they might not be able to fall asleep as easily as they usually do, Read says. “However, as long as the parent keeps that in mind and doesn’t get too upset with the child having a harder time than usual, this is a perfectly fine way to deal with the change,” Read says. “While every little one is different, for the most part, a generally well rested baby should be able to adjust to this change with little to no disruption to their sleep.”
In theory, you could also start adjusting baby’s schedule in 15 minute increments on or after DST if you forget to start a few days in advance, until they are on your preferred schedule.
What to do if your baby’s sleep schedule is out of whack after spring forward
Maybe your baby has never been a great sleeper and DST made it feel even worse, or maybe your typically wonderful sleeper is suddenly refusing bedtime. Whatever the case, don’t panic. “Keep your consistent, same sleep routine and schedule as you always have and just be patient with them,” Read suggests. “As long as you do not introduce any new habits or sleep associations to your little one during this adjustment, their sleep should be able to go back to normal on its own within a couple of days.”
So, as frustrating as it might be, try to be as calm as possible in front of your baby and wait it out. And remember: every baby is different, and your child may not even be affected! Actually, Read says that she thinks babies adjust better to spring forward than they do to fall back, when we gain an hour. “This is because little ones are usually on the early-riser side of the spectrum when it comes to natural morning wake-ups,” she explains. “In fact, parents can actually try to use this time change to their advantage. If a parent was struggling with a child who was consistently waking up too early, if they keep their schedule as it was before the change, they might be able to prolong this later wakeup.” That’s definitely a win.
If you’re really stressed about spring forward, it doesn’t hurt to try Read’s advice of preparing in 15 minute increments for the week before the time change. Otherwise, just putting them down at their normal time and hoping for the best is okay too. Remember that to help them adjust to spring forward you’ll need to be as calm and patient as possible, and do what you can to keep them well rested throughout the day.