Think back to your pre-kid life: Likely, you’d anticipate the end of Daylight Savings Time—when you get an extra hour of sleep on a Sunday morning—with a fist pump of joy (at least temporarily, until you realize how dark it gets in the afternoon). As it’s often said, having a baby changes everything, including how you feel about seasonal clock shifts. If you’re like many new parents, you may have spent last week trying to game out how dropping back an hour might affect your little one’s and your own sleep patterns.
Does falling back an hour mean the baby gets up earlier, or might she sleep later? Does it affect his naptimes? If you have a toddler, are you doomed to getting up for breakfast and playtime at 5 a.m., just when you’d come to terms with your 6 a.m. wakeup call?
The fact is that even a time change this small (it’s just an hour!) can mess with a baby’s circadian rhythm, which is her natural sleep-wake cycle. It’s like a small dose of jet lag. Sleep experts agree that the key to surviving not just the day after the clock change but also the potentially confused week after, as everyone adjusts to the new normal, is to pre-plan. (Your best bet is to spend the week before the time change shifting your baby’s sleep times forward 10 to 15 minutes per day to compensate).
Think it’s too late (pun intended) to make the early days and weeks after a time shift easier on the whole family? It’s not! Here are some tips to ease the transition:
- Try room darkening. If you don’t already have the means to keep the baby’s room dark, consider room-darkening shades so that earlier-morning sunshine won’t trigger wakefulness.
- Leave the baby in her crib for a few minutes if she wakes super early. If you got lucky with a baby who stays content in her crib upon waking, let her stay there for 10 or 15 minutes if she wakes earlier than normal in these first post-time-change days.
- Don’t shift naptime. Keep naptimes, as best you can, at the same times each day. This gives her internal clock a chance to adjust to the actual clock.
- Get lots of daytime sunlight. Get out in the sunshine at the height of the day. Exposure to light helps all of us adjust our circadian rhythms.
- Get a kid-friendly sleep clock. It’s not too early to teach your toddler or preschooler about the “right” times to be sleeping versus awake. A child-friendly clock that displays a moon when he’s meant to be sleeping and a sun when it’s wake time is a fun way for him to adapt to a shifted schedule.