How to Help Baby Adjust to Time Change
Updated: Nov 16, 2022
This Sunday most cities in America will observe the frustrating tradition of turning back our clocks by one hour. It is a frustrating tradition because studies have shown for years that the seemingly harmless 1-hour time change actually has huge impacts on our health. The Monday following our spring forward shift to Daylight Saving Time there is a 24% increase in heart attacks around the country. Research has also shown a 6% increase in fatal car accidents the week after we make the switch. Yikes! And that is just after 1 hour of lost sleep!
In March, 2022 the U.S. Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021 which would make Daylight Saving Time the permanent time across the country beginning in March 2023. As of the date of this writing, the Sunshine Protection Act has not yet made it to the U.S. House for debate, so we wait and prepare for what I hope is our last “fall back” time change ever (fingers crossed)!
As a sleep consultant, one of the common questions I get about the time change is “how do I help my baby adjust to the time change?” Parents may debate whether to start working on baby’s sleep the week before time change or the
week after. My personal preference is to just wait until the rest of the country has made the shift so your current schedule can stay in tact. A general rule to go by when it comes to sleep changes is not to make any changes until absolutely necessary.
No one likes to go to bed too early or too late, but babies especially have a difficult time making this one-hour leap to their daily schedule because they sleep more frequently than the rest of us and have a lower threshold for over-tiredness. It will take most people about a week to fully adjust to the time change, but the first 3 days will likely be the most challenging.
Here are my tips to help your baby adjust their sleep schedule to the new time:
1) Ignore the time change altogether on Saturday night.
Babies thrive on consistency, so stick with your regular bedtime routines and put baby down at the same time you always do Saturday night. The work in shifting baby’s body clock will start on Sunday.
2) Change your clocks in the morning instead of the night before.
Most of us go around changing our clocks the night before time change and then get frustrated when baby wakes an hour early the next morning. Keep in mind that baby’s body clock will not get the time-change memo. Baby will likely wake at the same time they always do in the morning. To reduce this frustration, work with your baby’s natural rhythm and get them up at their normal morning wake time on Sunday. Once they wake up for the morning, then you can go around and change the clocks. You’ll start adjusting sleep times when it’s time for nap.
3) Split the difference.
Remember that your baby’s body clock is still on yesterday’s time. If you put baby down for nap at their normal time, that will feel like an hour too late and you may get some major protest from an extremely overtired baby. Instead, adjust the nap time in 30 minute increments. If your baby normally naps at 10:00 a.m., then put them down for their first nap at 9:30 a.m. instead. That will feel like 30 minutes later than normal, but that’s more achievable than 1 full hour for most babies. Continue this pattern for the first 3 – 4 days after time change to give your baby time to adjust.
4) Go back to your regular schedule.
By night 5, baby should be mostly adjusted to the new time so you can return to your regular sleep times.
5) Be patient.
Remember that most of us take a week to fully adjust to the time change and your baby is no different. The first few days can result in some difficulty falling asleep, early rising or bedtime crankiness, but this will all pass with time and consistency. Stick with the new schedule so your baby can fully adjust.
If things don't go as smoothly as you'd hoped, or if adjusting to time change is the least of your worries because you are still trying to help your baby sleep through the night on any schedule, book a call with one of our consultants!