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How to prepare your baby for Daylight Saving Time

By Cradlewise Staff

It’s officially that time of year—we’re about to change our clocks because of Daylight Saving Time. While for some, it might be a minor one-hour switch, for parents of young children, DST takes on a whole new meaning. 

This seemingly small shift can throw off your little one’s entire schedule—their wake-up time, their naps, meals and bedtime. Fortunately, there are some simple but effective ways to help make this transition easier for your little one (and yourself, too).

We consulted Rachel Mitchell, Certified Sleep Specialist and CEO of My Sweet Sleeper, on how Daylight Saving Time affects your baby’s sleep and how you can adjust their schedule.

When do we fall back?

This year we fall back on November 6, 2022. Earlier this year, two days before the beginning of DST, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Sunshine Protection Act bill to make Daylight Saving Time permanent. 

The next stop will be the House of Representatives, from where it would go to President Biden’s desk. If President Biden passes it, the Sunshine Protection Act will officially end the practice of switching clocks back and forth twice a year. The bill would effectively end DST after 2023.

Fall back: How to adjust your baby’s sleep schedule

Mother reading to her baby and toddler

When DST ends on November 6, most of you will turn your clocks back one hour on Saturday night, November 5, before going to bed (While you’re at it, don’t forget the analog clocks like the microwave, wall clocks, etc.) 

This ‘fall back’ in time also means your little one might be waking up earlier.

  • If your child is under one

Certified Sleep Specialist Rachel Mitchell says, “For babies under age one, you don’t have to do a lot of shifting with their schedule since you should be primarily focusing on awake windows.”

“Awake windows are the periods of time that your baby is awake in between naps and because sleep varies so much in the first year we recommend following awake windows rather than a by-the-clock schedule. Keep in mind that awake windows will vary for each child.”

She suggests that instead of moving up your child’s bedtime, you can just adjust their awake windows gradually and not worry too much about the time on the clock. “You can also try to wake your baby around the same time each morning (within 30 minutes) to try and promote some consistency in their day (if over 3 months),” she says.

  • If your child is one or older

For this age, it’s better to gradually ease your baby into the new routine. You can do this by putting your kiddo to bed a little later each night by 10 to 15 minutes.

Ideally, you want to start this transition four days leading up to Daylight Saving Time. (But this is just a general guideline—the number of days a baby needs to adjust also depends on the baby’s temperament.)

Here’s a sample sleep schedule for a baby who goes to sleep at 8 p.m each day:

Four days before November 6, 2022Push your baby’s bedtime to this time
November 28.15 pm
November 38.30 pm
November 48.45 pm
November 59.00 pm

The night before DST ends, your baby’s new bedtime will be 9 p.m., which will then become 8 p.m. on the evening of November 6, when you reverse your clock by an hour. Your baby will hopefully be ready to fall asleep around their original bedtime. Mission accomplished 🙌

How Daylight Saving Time affects your baby’s sleep

Babies don't have a well-developed circadian rhythm

Any change that disturbs your baby’s internal clock or circadian rhythm can lead to sleep-related problems, which then affects their appetite and mood. 

However, it’s important to note that Daylight Saving Time affects babies differently in the spring than in the fall.

Mitchell says, “The major difference between the time change in the spring and Fall is the shift in sunlight and how it affects your child’s circadian rhythm and internal sleep cycles.”

When we spring forward, we have more sunlight later in the evening, which most of us find exciting, but it can affect the onset of melatonin and circadian rhythm. Because of this, some babies struggle to wind down and fall asleep at night.

—Rachel Mitchell, Certified Sleep Specialist and CEO of My Sweet Sleeper

When we spring forward, we have more sunlight later in the evening, which most of us find exciting, but it can affect the onset of melatonin and circadian rhythm. Because of this, some babies struggle to wind down and fall asleep at night.

Rachel Mitchell, Certified Sleep Specialist and CEO of My Sweet Sleeper

She explains that in the spring we have daylight longer, which means that your child’s melatonin production may onset later, whereas in the winter the opposite happens—early sunset, which leads to the production of melatonin earlier. Because of this, your child may seem tired earlier in the evening. “This is one of the reasons that I recommend having a slightly later bedtime in the spring and summer months and an earlier bedtime in the fall and winter months.”

According to Mitchell, “The fall time change can also cause early risers to rise even earlier (insert collective sigh).”

So if your baby is already waking early, Mitchell suggests that you can take some steps to try and push that early wake-up such as ensuring daytime sleep is within an appropriate range, and that your child is going to bed at an ideal time for their age.

Spring forward vs. fall back

Baby during falling back daylight saving time

You might wonder, why does shifting the clock by just one hour have such a monumental impact on my little one’s sleep?
Daylight Saving Time disrupts their circadian rhythm, which governs when they wake up or fall asleep. Babies and toddlers are much more sensitive to changes in time because their internal clocks are still under development.

Did you know?
Springing forward and falling back one hour each year creates a dissonance in your tot’s understanding of time. With this mismatch between your baby’s circadian rhythm and external clock timings, you might notice that they are a little overtired and grumpy, having nap issues, etc. Depending on the time of the year, they might also wake up earlier or later than their usual bedtime.

Did you know?

Springing forward and falling back one hour each year creates a dissonance in your tot’s understanding of time. With this mismatch between your baby’s circadian rhythm and external clock timings, you might notice that they are a little overtired and grumpy, having nap issues, etc. Depending on the time of the year, they might also wake up earlier or later than their usual bedtime.

The sleeping period is still the same; it’s just the clock timing that has changed.

But it also depends a lot on your baby’s unique sleep needs and how strong their circadian rhythm is.

According to Mitchell, Daylight Saving Time impacts each child’s sleep differently depending on their adaptability. “Generally, most babies will adjust to the time change within a week or so.”

Spring forward: How to adjust your baby’s sleep schedule

  • If your child is under one

According to Mitchell for babies under one, there usually isn’t a need to prepare in advance. You could just follow awake windows.

  • If your child is one or older 

You can help them prepare for this transition by gradually shifting their nap and bedtime earlier by about 10 to 15 minutes each day.

You can start this transition four days leading up to Daylight Saving Time. (But again, every baby is different. The number of days a baby needs to adjust also depends on the baby’s temperament.)

Here is a sample schedule for a baby who typically goes to bed at 8 p.m.:

Four days before March 12, 2023Push your baby’s bedtime to this time
March 87.45 pm
March 97.30 pm
March 107.15 pm
March 117.00 pm

The night before DST begins, your baby’s new bedtime will be 7 p.m., which will then become 8 p.m. on the evening of March 13th, when you forward your clock by an hour. Hopefully, your little one will be prepared to fall asleep around the time they were originally scheduled to go to bed.

Tips to prepare your baby 

Baby sleeping peacefully

Now you know when to start making small shifts in your babe’s schedule. However, it’s also important to remember that your baby must have a strong sleep foundation in order to set them up for solid zzzs.

  1. Stick with a consistent sleep routine: A consistent sleep schedule for your baby helps them identifying certain cues with bedtime, and helps them falling asleep quickly.

    This is all the more important when Daylight Saving Time starts and ends because the change in the timing might abruptly disturb your little one’s schedule. You can also give your baby warm baths or read them a bedtime story before putting them to bed. It’s all about creating a powerful sleep signal. 

    Mitchell points out that sometimes the shift brought by DST can cause other disruptions that can end up becoming long-term challenges. To avoid these challenges, she recommends staying as consistent as possible in your approach and not making any other major changes.
  1. Set up a pitch-black sleep environment for your baby: Even dim night lights can disrupt your baby’s natural melatonin production. 
  1. Get your little one that warm, early-spring sunshine: Take your tot outdoors and make sure they get plenty of natural sunlight. This will help regulate their circadian rhythm and also make it easier for them to fall asleep at night.
  1. Be mindful of the lighting in your home before bed: Ensure that at least two hours leading up to your kiddo’s bedtime, they are not exposed to bright lighting in your home. Dim the lights near their room and in the hallway. It will help them sleep better.

Crib Notes

During periods of transition like Daylight Saving Time or regressions, you may want to consider adjusting your Cradlewise’s setting to find what works best for your LO. For example, you could change the bounce intensity or how quickly the crib responds to sensitive movement to give your little one some extra support and soothing.

While our crib is smart, nothing can replace parental instincts. You know your child best.

Crib Notes

During periods of transition like Daylight Saving Time or regressions, you may want to consider adjusting your Cradlewise’s setting to find what works best for your LO. For example, you could change the bounce intensity or how quickly the crib responds to sensitive movement to give your little one some extra support and soothing.

While our crib is smart, nothing can replace parental instincts. You know your child best.

The bottom line

Helping your baby get adjusted to a new schedule can be hard on you, too. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. 

“Give yourself lots of grace and try not to schedule anything major like travel right after the time change,” says Mitchell.

Focus on everyone in the family getting good quality sleep in the week before and the week after the clocks change, no matter which one.

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