Now that the sweltering heat is dying down and the long days at the pool are starting to feel like a distant memory, you’ve put the whole family back on a routine and things are starting to run like clockwork again. Drop-off, pick-up, meal planning, school, play dates, whew! You truly are a logistics superstar! But in a few short weeks there is another challenge that can throw a wrench into your smooth-running operation, and your baby’s sleep schedule: the end of Daylight Savings Time. In the U.S. we will “Fall Back” on November 6th and in Europe, clocks will change on October 30th.
You worked hard to get everyone back to business, so I don’t blame you for being worried about how the time change will affect everyone’s busy schedule. So, today we will talk about what to expect and help you find the best strategy for your family and your baby or toddler.
3 Strategies to Beat the Fall Back Blues
Every child and family situation is unique, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Depending on your individual circumstance and how adaptable or sensitive your baby or toddler is, you can decide which approach fits best:
- Go with the Flow. If your child is pretty adaptable and generally consistent most of the time, you can just stay on your regular schedule. Let’s say your baby is waking at 6:30 a.m. and going to bed at 7 p.m. When the time change happens, your clock will say 5:30 a.m., but to your baby this will be no different than the previous day. At bedtime, you can continue to put your baby or toddler down when the clock says 7 p.m., even though for him it may feel like 8 p.m. It’s possible they might be a bit more tired than usual, at first, but in a couple of days they will adjust to the new time. This works very well for babies or toddlers who are not overly sensitive to being overtired and will get them re-settled into their regular schedule in just a day or two.
- Take the Lead. If your baby or toddler is not usually as adaptable and often sensitive to changes in schedule, you may want to take the lead here and gradually move them in the right direction. With this strategy, 4 days before your time changes, you will want to put your baby or toddler to bed 15 minutes later than usual. Ideally, they will also wake up 15 minutes later the next morning, but this may not necessarily happen right away. The next day you will continue to lead them in the right direction by offering naps 15 minutes later than usual to keep the whole schedule going along. If you continue to move things up 15 minutes later each night, by the time the clock changes, you will have lead your baby forward by 1 hour, but still be back to your “normal” schedule. The drawback for the very sensitive babies and toddlers is that this strategy can have a cumulative effect and they can end up becoming overtired, possibly leading to crankiness, early morning wake-ups, night-wakings and short naps.
- See how it goes. If your baby or toddler is more on the inconsistent side and seems to adapt in some situations, but has a hard time on some days, you can take it each day at a time. With this strategy you stick with your regular schedule until the time change and when the clocks fall back, take a flexible approach and shift her forward only as much as she seems to be able to handle on that day. If the goal is to get back to a 7 p.m. bedtime, you may only be able to get up to 6:30 p.m. at first. The next day she may be able to stretch to 6:45 p.m. If you stay with it she will adjust in a few days. The drawback of this strategy, is that it can be challenging for those with babies or toddlers who are already waking up very early. If this sounds like your baby or toddler, I would suggest shifting their schedule in the three weeks leading up to the time change, and again, a week or so after the time change (if you are working to change the 5 a.m. wake-up).
While Fall Back can be a temporary setback to your family’s schedule, consistency is key. For more sleep help, including tips to promote sleeping through the night you can put to use all year long, check out our free e-Book, 5 Ways To Help Your Baby Sleep Through The Night! If you want to have a library of resources at your fingertips as your child grows and you grow your family, you can also check our Members Area, where we have an e-book devoted to the topic of how to shift your child’s schedule, as well as a recorded tele-seminar with yours truly all about sorting out schedule problems. In addition to many other resources, we also have a custom schedule generator for all ages where you can simply input your child’s age and instantly receive a custom schedule, including feeding times. If you find you need more help, join us in one of our live chats with a sleep consultant! You’re never alone in your journey to better sleep!
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