Daylight saving and baby sleep

It’s that time of year to “fall back” with the end of Daylight Saving Time. You may be wondering when does Daylight Saving Time end or even when did it start. In 2021, Daylight Saving Time began on Sunday, March 14, and is over on Sunday, November 7. By setting our clocks back on November 7, we’ll gain an hour. Unfortunately, our kids’ internal clocks aren’t as easily tuned into this time change. Before you get too stressed about the situation, check out some tips for adjusting your baby to the fall time change.

The Basics of Baby Sleep

If all babies were the same, it would be easy to jump right into how to adjust your baby's sleep schedule for the fall change, but that isn't the case. We must make sure your baby has a solid sleep foundation before frantically skipping ahead to the good stuff. A solid sleep foundation includes three fundamental keys that you need to be sure you’re observing.

  • Dark. A great sleep tip is that your baby needs and wants their room to be dark for naps and night sleep. It should be so dark that even during naps when the sun is out, you still can't see. Yes, that dark! You might consider buying blackout shades, which are available for all budgets. They’ll make all the difference for your baby's room.

  • Noise. Lullabies, ocean sounds, and Mozart are all nice ideas, but the simple fact is that most babies are actually going to be stimulated by anything but a low, rumbly, boring Brown noise for sleeping. Many of these other sounds will be lovely for falling asleep initially, but when it comes time to stitch together sleep cycles, these other sound options are going to work against you. They will bring your baby into an alert state when they should still be sleeping.

  • Bedtime. The conventional wisdom is wrong when it comes to the idea that late bedtime means sleeping in later in the morning. This is not how most babies respond to a later bedtime. Establish a bedtime routine that includes a bedtime somewhere between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m., when infant melatonin secretion may be at its peak. It might seem counterintuitive, but an earlier bedtime helps prevent night wakings and super early wake-up times.

Understanding your baby's sleep patterns can also help with transitions like this. Lumi by Pampers automatically tracks your baby's sleep and charts it over time. It then displays the information in easy-to-read charts so you can see and understand your baby's sleep habits at a glance, helping you make informed decisions and establish routine.

Good Sleepers Need Less Help

If your baby is already a great sleeper (11 to 12 hours a night and 2 to 4 hours of napping a day depending on the age) and waking up between 6 and 7 a.m., then you don’t need to do anything prior to Daylight Saving Time. Babies who are already champion sleepers and waking up at a reasonable time are going to need about five days to adjust. The adjustment is going to require very little effort on your part and is all done after the time change. You will be responding to the time change, rather than anticipating the time change, and it should look like this:

Morning of Daylight Saving Time (Sunday, Nov. 7)

Your baby, who normally wakes at 6 a.m., will now be waking an hour earlier at 5 a.m. When they wake, hold off for 30 minutes before going into their room to get them. They most likely will not go back to sleep and may even get upset that you aren't getting them. While it's against our instinct to wait to get our little ones, the alternative is that you risk your baby's sleep pattern falling apart completely and the new wake-up time creeping closer to 4 or 5 a.m. every day.

Afternoon of Daylight Saving Time

Push your schedule for the day back by 30 minutes. Eating, naps, bath, and bedtime should now all be 30 minutes later.

Two or Three Days Following Daylight Saving Time

Continue with the 30-minute adjusted schedule for two to three days. Once you've hit three days post-Daylight Saving Time, repeat step one above (for two or three more days), adding 30 additional minutes into the schedule so that you are now pushing everything back by one full hour. This will bring you and your baby back up to the correct wake-up time in the morning that it was prior to Daylight Saving Time.

Problem Sleepers Need a Proactive Solution

If your baby already struggles in the sleep department, you’ll need to be proactive for the time change so you don’t wind up with your baby spiraling into an even worse sleep regression. You need to start your sleep transition one week prior to Daylight Saving Time by doing the following:

One Week Before Daylight Saving Time

Adjust your baby's bedtime to be 15 minutes later. In the morning, let your baby stay in their crib for an additional 15 minutes from the time they wake up. They most likely will not go back to sleep and may even get upset that you aren't getting them. While it's against our instinct to wait to get our little ones, the alternative is that you risk your baby's sleep pattern falling apart completely and the new wake-up time creeping earlier every day. Push your entire day's schedule by 15 minutes. Eating, naps, bath, and bedtime should now all be 15 minutes later. Continue the 15-minute shifts every other day (so you adjust their schedule by 15 minutes for 2 days, then by another 15 minutes for another 2 days) until Daylight Saving Time day and your baby is back to the correct hour for waking up.

Two to Three Days Following Daylight Saving Time

If your baby is resisting the tiny 15-minute change, give it an extra day—three instead of two for each increment. This means you will be adjusting leading up to the end of Daylight Saving Time and the adjusting will continue into the following few days until your baby is back to the correct wake-up hour, which is perfectly fine.

Keep Your Child in the Crib Until They Are 3

Resist the urge to put your child under 3 years old in a toddler bed. This is relevant all year long, but it becomes especially critical for the fall time change. If your 2-year-old has been waking up at 6 a.m. and they’re in a toddler bed or you’re considering putting them into a toddler bed, think about the fact that on the first day of Daylight Saving Time you could have a 2-year-old jumping out of bed to roam the house at 5 a.m., heading into the kitchen to remove all pots and pans, dig into the bag of dog food, and cram cereal into their ears and nostrils while they’re at it. You really do need the crib to assist in a smooth transition for the fall time change. Toddlers aren't developmentally capable of responding to logic and reason the way a 3-year-old will. If you were thinking of making the switch, don't do it yet.

Get Help From a Parent Coach or Sleep Expert if You’re Stuck

A sleep regression from Daylight Saving Time or jet lag from changing time zones can negatively impact the sleep hygiene of your entire family. If your baby is struggling with the transition, it may be worth looking up a sleep or parenting expert in your area to get help.

Celebrate!

Celebrate your fall time-change victory by sleeping in like one of those actors who appears to sleep so soundly that they actually smile as soon as they wake—and have perfectly styled hair, too. Or, if you prefer to celebrate your achievement by waking up 30 minutes early and having 30 minutes of silence in which you can drink a coffee and read the paper, then do that and enjoy your “me time.” You deserve it! The point is, you did it, and that’s no small feat. You masterfully dodged the sleep regression bullet! For even more information on helping your baby sleep soundly, check out our articles on what to do when your baby wakes early and read up on some common misconceptions about baby sleep. *Please be aware that newborns under 12 weeks will not follow these same adjustments for developmental reasons. This post is for children 3 months to 3 years old.