How To Get Through the Spring Time Change
Twice a year, I receive a flurry of panicked emails that all sound something like this:
The clocks changed and my baby is totally thrown off schedule! Help! What should I do?!
First off, let’s all agree that the twice-yearly time change is beyond frustrating when it comes to our children’s schedules.
Daylight Saving Time was initiated in Germany as a wartime measure during WWI to conserve the energy that artificial lights used. More daylight = less electricity used = smaller electric bills for a nation at war. The easy answer was to extend daylight hours. The hard part is living with a hundred years later, with an overtired baby.
When we Spring Forward, 6 am becomes 7 am. That brings good news and bad news.
The good news: You can expect your baby to be not-quite-ready to wake up on time in the mornings, which can allow you to get some extra sleep if your schedule allows for it. If you suffer from your baby ’s early morning waking, this can be a real boon! The 5:30 am waking becomes 6:30 am, which gives you some much needed extra sleep.
The bad news: You can expect your baby to be wide awake at bedtime and have a hard time falling asleep once the clock changes. After all, at the new 7 pm, her body still thinks its 6 pm!
More good news: Most babies adjust naturally within a week or two.
More bad news: It can be a rough few days before you get to that point!
Here’s how to get through those days of transition
- Mentally prepare yourself for a rough week. Be understanding of your baby (and of yourself) if the schedule change brings about some irritability and… a rough edge around your home, shall we say. It’s a hard week for everyone. Adults are affected by the time change, too! Give everyone grace and focus on just getting through the next few days.
- Make sure you have blackout curtains in place. Expecting your baby or toddler to fall asleep at 6:30 pm while sunshine is still pouring through the windows simply isn’t fair. Do yourself a favor and get a pair of blackout shades. Velcroing them to the sides of the window frame will filter out the light that peeks through the sides of the curtains.
- With Spring comes flowers, warm weather, and … birds. Birds that chirp. Loudly. Early in the morning. Make sure your baby has loud white noise to block out that natural alarm clock or pay the price of having your babe wake with the birds.
- Take your baby outside as soon as she wakes up in the morning. Our body schedules are regulated by routines and by the sun, so even just a few minutes of exposure to sunlight will help reset her internal clock to the new time.
How to Adjust Your Baby’s Schedule
The real truth is that you don’t have to do anything to prepare for daylight savings. Your baby’s body will naturally adjust itself within a few days. However, if you’re the type that wants to “do something about this!” then you have two options:
Prep before over the course of the week before the time change, start moving your baby’s bedtime and nap times back, about 10 minutes earlier each day. At the end of the week, your baby will be on schedule with the new time, ready for the clock to change.
Damage control after leave things as they are during when the clock changes, and the over the course of the week following the change, move bedtime and naptimes back 10 minutes earlier each day. This method is easier to follow because the clocks have already changed and you know what you’re working with, so to speak. With the prep-before method, it can be more confusing to move towards an imaginary time.
50/50 As an additional twist, you can stop halfway through the reversing of the schedule, and meet the new time change-halfway. What does that mean? If your baby normally had a 7 pm bedtime before the time change, the day the clocks change, put her to sleep at 8 pm, her regular bedtime of the “old” 7 pm. Each night, move it 10 minutes earlier until you get to 7:30 pm. You can then leave her bedtime at the new 7:30 pm. It’s less work but a later bedtime, so you can decide if that works best for your baby.
No matter which approach you choose, the good news is that your baby’s body is going to adjust to the new time within a week or two. I promise! The week following the time change can be hard but it will pass and before you know it… it will be time to do it all over again in the fall.
If you decide you’re so fed up with the clock change and wish you could live without it, consider a move to Hawaii, Arizona or Puerto Rico. There’s no time change there!