Just when parents feel like they are finally getting the hang of recognizing baby’s sleep cues and successfully implementing a smooth bedtime routine, a time change pops out of nowhere throwing off all of those weeks of hard work. It is hard to believe that it is March and already time to spring forward, but it is upon us so we are here to help. Fortunately, we have the great wisdom of Melissa from Sleep Sisters, a sleep consultant for babies and families, who facilitates sleep workshops at our Palo Alto and San Francisco locations.
On Sunday, March 12 most of the United States will be turning the clocks forward one hour. Luckily for parents of little ones, the Spring time change tends to less disruptive than the one in the Fall. When we turn our clocks forward, or simply watch our phones automatically do it, some find it’s easiest to do nothing in preparation. If that approach doesn’t appeal to you, you can start moving everything in your child’s routine earlier by 10-15 minutes each day to gradually adapt to the one-hour time change. If you have not already started to do this, do not panic- babies will adjust within a few days.
When we “spring forward” we turn our clocks “ahead” one hour, but for our bodies, it will feel like we are doing everything one hour earlier. So that means, what used to be 6am becomes 7am. If our kids are accustomed to waking at 7am, then beginning on Sunday morning, their bodies will likely wake them naturally at what will then be 8am. Or if you ask them to continue to rise at 7am, to their bodies, it will feel like 6am. Confused yet?
If you have an early riser who may be used to waking around 5:30am, you may luck out and find that she wakes on Sunday closer to 6:30 am! Just like that, you’ve gained an hour in the morning. Similarly, if you feel like your child’s bedtime has slipped later than you would like, seize upon this opportunity to shift to an earlier bedtime. After the time change, 7pm will feel like 8pm to your child’s body.
In order to build on these wake-time and bedtime changes, it’s important that you move all the other activities in your child’s day to the new time on Sunday. Plan your naps and meals at the same time (by the new clock) that you used previously. For most children under 18 months, their first nap will be within two hours of waking. For kids taking only one nap per day, nap time usually falls about 4-5 hours after waking for the day. Keep meal times consistent, too.
Your child’s naps may be off a bit the first few days, so if you have a less-than-ideal day of naps, move bedtime earlier that night to make up for it. After a few days following the new routine consistently, your kids will likely be right back in the swing of things – hopefully with your ideal bedtimes and wake-times. If not, give Sleep Sisters a call. Good luck!
A version of this post originally appeared on the Sleep Sisters blog. You can view it here.
You might also be interested in this post, “Where is Your Baby Sleeping?” by Nurse Nancy.