Before having kids, I LOVED when it was time to fall back every year, because that meant an extra hour of sleep! And who doesn’t love more sleep??
As a parent, however, daylight savings makes us shake our fists at whoever decided it was a good idea to change the clocks twice a year, and whoever has decided to keep it around. Although I still don’t like it, it IS possible to navigate with kids’ sleep and not go totally insane!
So in this blog post I will explain:
- When it’s best to start adjusting your baby or toddler’s sleep for falling back
- How to fall back with babies on an awake window schedule
- How to fall back with babies and toddlers on a set nap schedule
- How to fall back with older kids who no longer nap
When to Start Adjusting Your Child’s Sleep for Daylight Savings
For your sake, I suggest not even changing the clocks the night before. Wait until you’ve woken up and had your morning devotional, coffee, tea, exercise, etc. Your phone will of course change overnight, but don’t stress about the real clocks until morning. And then start everyone’s day from there.
Some people like to start adjusting their child’s schedule before daylight savings so once the clocks officially fall back, their little one is adjusted. If that works better for your family or your schedule, by all means, do it! I just prefer to wait.
Guess what?? There are even people who just kind of wing daylight savings, and we usually all end up on the other side eventually. So if the idea of a planned adjustment stresses you out more than just winging it, you do you!!
Falling Back with Young Babies on an Awake Window Schedule
Now, if your little one is on a “schedule” according to awake windows, then it’s pretty simple! Keep your little one on that same awake window schedule and focus on slowly pushing the morning wake-up time later and later (read below).
If you have a newborn, you likely won’t notice daylight savings all that much. If your babe is four months or older, you will notice it a bit more! Around four months old is when I suggest parents aim for their baby’s bedtime to fall between 6:30-8:00 pm.
For the first few days after the time change, you may find that your baby’s bedtime is landing around 5:30-7:00 pm based on their last nap, and that’s understandable…to them it feels an hour later. We want to be careful with overtiredness, but try to push your babe just a bit, to even get to a 6 pm bedtime. And as they days go on, they will continue to adjust.
What About Mornings?
Similar to bedtime, I recommend families with babies four months and older to start the day between 6:00-7:30 am. When the clocks fall back, your baby might be waking between 5-6:30 am…rough, but again, understandable!
So when they wake up early on Sunday, go ahead and get them up for the day (unless, of course, they’re content, then certainly wait!). As the days go on, try to push the time you actually get them up in the morning a bit later and later, inching closer to that 6-7:30 am window, so they don’t get set in thinking 5/5:30 am is the new normal wake up time.
It’s all about retraining their little body clocks!
Confused about where to even begin with an awake window schedule? Snag the (FREE!) Ultimate Guide to Sleep Schedules now!
Falling Back with Babies and Toddlers on a Set Nap Schedule
If you have a baby or toddler who is on a set schedule, however, your best bet is to adjust your child’s schedule by pulling it 30 minutes earlier for the first three days after the time change. And then on day four, adjust naps and bedtime back to your child’s normal schedule.
So on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, pull your child’s nap time(s) and bedtime 30 minutes earlier (30 minutes earlier according to the clock, which will actually feel like 30 minutes later to their body).
For example, if your child usually goes to bed at 7:00, pull that time to 6:30 for three days (it will feel like 7:30 to them).
Do the Same for Naps!
If your child usually takes an afternoon nap at 12:00, pull that nap to 11:30 for three days. It might be a push for your little one, but not so much that it will damage their schedule.
What About Mornings?
First, your child’s bedroom windows should already be super dark (i.e. I can’t see my hand in front of my face), so any change in light outside the windows shouldn’t affect them.
But your child will inevitably wake up about an hour “earlier” than usual, according to the new time, and that’s understandable – body clocks are strong! If they usually wake up around 7 am, they’ll likely wake closer to 6 am for the first few days.
When they wake up around 6 am on Sunday, go ahead and get them up for the day (unless, of course, they’re content, then you can certainly wait longer!). If they wake up around 6 am again on Monday, try not to rush in the moment you hear them wake up – we don’t want them learning that waking up at 6:00 is the new norm!
Instead, try to wait about 15 minutes before going to get them and then start the day. If they wake up at 6:00 again on morning two, try to wait closer to 30 minutes to get them, and so on.
We are retraining their little body clock for a new wake up time! (If your child is 2 or older, having a toddler clock in place will help with morning transition, especially!)
By the end of the week, your child’s schedule should be adjusted to the time change and they will likely start waking up at their usual hour.
Falling Back with Children No Longer Taking Naps
If you have an older child who doesn’t nap anymore, I also suggest shifting their schedule about 30 minute earlier to help them adjust. The nice thing is, they won’t be as sensitive to the change!
If your child is usually in bed by 7:00 pm, move his bedtime to 6:30 pm for three days (this will feel like 7:30 pm), then on the fourth day make bedtime 7:00 pm again.
What About Mornings?
I suggest adjusting mornings similarly, trying to push their wake up time by about 15 minutes every day to help their body clock adjust to the night time change. This is where having a toddler clock in place will be especially helpful – it’s not time to wake up because the clock hasn’t changed, not simply because mommy and daddy “say so.”
It’ll take a few more days to fully adjust to the new bedtime and morning wake up, but by the end of the week you should be just about back to normal.
Final tip for EVERYONE…that’s right, including you. GET OUTSIDE!
Our body clocks can be very sensitive, and even with slight changes in schedules we can get easily thrown off, so make sure both you and your kiddos are getting outside during this adjustment. Getting outside, specifically in the morning and around sunset, helps our body clocks adjust (this is a great tip for changing time zones, too!).
If reading about having your child on any kind of schedule sounds foreign to you (whether by awake window or set times), or daylight savings is the least of your worries because you’re up all hours of the night trying to coerce your child to sleep anyway, I’d love to chat with you! Sign up for a FREE discovery call so I can hear more about your child’s sleep and explain how I can help.