Baby sleeping on back

The short, dark days of winter are lengthening. The sun is waiting a little longer to sink behind the horizon, and it’s almost time to change the clocks ahead. Parents dread the cranky days after everyone loses that hour of sleep, but Daylight Saving Time can be a smooth transition if you make a plan and follow it.

Daylight Saving Time begins in the U.S. on Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 2:00 a.m. You’ll “spring forward," meaning Saturday night you’ll move all the clocks one hour later. There are two simple options for transitioning your child to the new clock time: just changing the clocks or slowly moving them onto a new schedule.

The “Do-Nothing” Method

This method is best for toddlers and preschoolers.

Change every clock one hour later in the house on Saturday evening after your child goes to bed. Be sure to include the toddler wake-up clock if you have one.

  • Proceed with your normal day on Sunday but everything will be pushed ahead one hour. If your child normally wakes up before 6:00 a.m. they will now wake an hour later! However tempting, make sure you wake them by 7:30-8:00 a.m. so that they will be tired enough for naps and bedtime.

  • Keep meals and snacks at their normal clock time.

  • Make bedtime at their regular “clock time," which is actually an hour later.

Be flexible and understanding while your child adjusts. The new bedtime will feel earlier as the clock says 7 p.m. but their body will still feel like it’s 6 p.m.

Gradual Schedule Migration

This method is better for babies under a year old and children who have more difficulty with transitions. Schedule migration is a more gradual, proactive approach, especially for younger babies and children who have more difficulty with transitions.

  • You’ll push the bedtime back gradually over the course of the week before the time change. Based on a 7:00 pm bedtime: About a week before the change, move bedtime back 15 minutes to 6:45 p.m.

  • Move back every day or two until bedtime is at 6:00 p.m.

  • Be sure to move wake-up time, meals, and naps the same amount to stay on the same schedule.

When 6:00 p.m. becomes 7:00 p.m., ideally your child will be back on their clock schedule. It may take a week because your child’s inner clock was set on Standard Time for the whole winter, and although the clock now says 7:00, it may still feel a little like 6:00 to them.

Baby Sleep and Daylight Saving Time Infographic

Making a Successful Adjustment

No matter which method you choose, there are some things you can do to make the shift easier for everyone.

  • Make your plan ahead of time.

  • Expose your child to bright sunlight during the daytime hours, and especially the morning after the time change. This will help reset your child’s internal clock. You can use a “dramatic wake-up” — go into their room and open the shades and say, “good morning!”

  • If the weather permits, get outside for a walk.

  • Consider room-darkening shades for sleep.

  • Make naps a priority because good naps lead to good nighttime sleep.

  • Watch your child’s sleepy cues. Although you want to stay on the schedule, you’ll want to stay flexible enough to identify when they need to sleep, even if it isn’t exactly when they are “supposed” to go to bed.

  • At least 30 minutes before bed, turn off bright lights and screens.

  • Revisit your favorite sleep coaching method to help remind your child of their sleep habits.

  • If you have an early-riser, this time change may work to your advantage! On Sunday, if your early riser has been getting up at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m., they will now be up at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m.

With a solid plan in place — and a little patience — the dreaded Daylight Saving Time transition will be a distant memory before spring has officially sprung.

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