27 Sep How To Adjust Your Babies Sleep Schedule For Daylight Savings
Here in NSW and many other parts of the southern hemisphere Daylight Savings is due to begin the first Sunday in October (this will be the 7th October in 2018) This is the time when we all move our clocks forward an hour as we go to bed, effectively transferring one hour of daylight from the morning to the evening.
As spring approaches everyone is looking forward to the longer, lighter evenings – Except for parents of course. It seems that parents dread daylight savings starting just as much as they dread it ending in April! But is it really that bad?
If you are reading this blog you most likely have a child under the age of 5. If your child is under the age of 2 then it is very likely that for the past week or so your little one has been waking earlier and earlier. As soon as the sun is up and the birds are chirping the eyes of your little one are likely to *ping* open and what was a manageable 6.30am is now a not so manageable 5.30am! For many parents the start of daylight savings just adjusts their family back into their normal routine as the darker mornings keep everyone in bed a lot longer. But of course this isn’t the case for everyone.
If you google daylight savings tips you are likely to come across two main methods for dealing with these changes. Below I have broken them down into easy to follow steps giving you the opportunity to decide easily what is going to work best for your little family and how to implement:
The Graduated Change
Many sleep consultants swear by this technique of slowly adjusting their babies bedtimes in the lead up to daylight savings and there are many variations of this method out there. But basically it is adjusting your childs daily routine out over the course of a week -usually before daylight savings starts but you could possibly adapt it to the week following if you prefer. This technique tends to work best with babies aged 6 months + to toddlers.
- Day 1&2 Wake your baby 15 minutes earlier, move all meal times forward by 15 minutes as well as nap and bedtimes.
- Day 3&4 Wake your baby 30 minutes earlier, bring forward all meals, naps and bedtimes by 30 minutes
- Day5&6 Wake your baby 45 minutes earlier, naps, meals and bedtimes all happen 45 minutes earlier than normal
- Day 7 The clocks have changed your baby is waking up at the right time, your day can continue as normal with bedtime happening at their usual time as it has adjusted!
This method of Gradual Change sounds great on paper. But in reality who wants to be setting an alarm to wake their baby earlier and earlier each day? Not me if I’m honest! However in saying this, if you are committed and consistent then this method really does work. Your hard work and early mornings will pay off and by day 7 it will seem as if daylight savings never even happened. You just have to decide if it is worth it for you
The “Act Like Nothing’s Changed” Method
This doesn’t mean crossing your fingers, holding your breath and praying your baby doesn’t notice any changes. But it does mean keep going as usual. This method works well with children who are able to adapt to staying up a little beyond their bedtime and who don’t get too overtired.
Sunday afternoon/evening adjust your clocks, get your child outside in the afternoon for a play in the park or even head out for dinner that night. Bedtime will happen at the same time according to your newly set clocks (this will technically be an hour later) Monday morning your child should wake up at roughly their normal time, maybe a little earlier but it should only last a day or two. Keep your baby or toddler’s routine the same as always with food and naps at the usual times. Remember the best cure for time changes is fresh air and sunlight so insure your child gets as much of this as possible in the few days following.
With this method children sometimes struggle with their naps or you may find that they struggle staying awake until their new bedtime – which will feel to them much later than their old one – but this will usually resolve itself in a few days or by the end of the week at the most.
If you need to move their naps to an earlier time as they really aren’t coping, you can do so by 30 mins or so but only do it as a short term solution.
Routine and consistency is the key with this technique. Don’t let your little one nap too long during the day and keep to a structured bedtime routine. Lots of smaller meals during the day will also help your tired baby to make it through until nap or bedtime so bear in mind their appetite may change for a few days, preferring to eat little and often rather than 3 main meals.
My Top Tips for Handling Daylight Savings With A Baby
- As always, I highly recommend black out blinds in your baby or childs bedroom, if you can’t install black out blinds then foil on the windows is a great alternative – although it’s not going to win you any style awards!
- Play white or Pink noise. Something that plays soft white noise for 10+ hours overnight is perfect, you don’t want to have to be restarting a white noise machine every few hours. White/ Pink noise minimises all external sounds and helps us transition between sleep cycles.
- Post daylight savings make sure that you have your childs curtains drawn and the room dimly lit when starting the bedtime routine despite it being light outside. The light can distress some older toddlers and children who think they are being put to bed early so dimly lighting a dark room whilst having some relaxed ‘wind down’ time before bed is perfect!
- Watch for Sleep Cues! Our internal clocks are much more powerful than an actual clock! If you opt for the ‘Act Like Nothings Changed’ Method but you find your baby is struggling to stay awake, is overtired and inconsolable or is becoming hyper and agitated before bed it might be time to trial gradually adjusting her sleep and meal times as per option one to give her a chance to catch up
- Be Flexible – Time changes can make even adults feel out of sorts for a few days, so be flexible, patient and give your child a chance to adjust.
- Cap The Nap – Don’t let any daytime nap last for longer than 2 hours, too much daytime sleep can result in a baby or child that either won’t go to bed at night or one that rises very early in the morning!
In my experience, both personal and professional – daylight savings makes minimal difference to a baby that has been taught the skills to fall to sleep by themselves. Children in consistent routines generally adapt quickly and easily to any time changes. This also applies to children that are travelling across time zones too. If you have a good routine established before you travel your child is much more likely to happily adjust.
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