TAKING CARA BABIES
Daylight Saving: Fall Back and Your Baby’s Sleep
Cara Dumaplin, Founder
October 16, 2016
It’s that time again: boots, hay rides, and carving pumpkins. Oh how I love fall! The months of crisp sweatshirt weather, warm mugs of apple cider, and leaves turning colors are my absolute favorite.
There’s also one other great advantage that comes with my beloved autumn season: we gain an extra hour of sleep when Daylight Saving Time ends!
Remember, we “fall back” an hour in the first week of November? Then, on that beautiful Sunday morning, we awaken, and instead of it being 8 am, it’s only 7 am. We roll over and drift off to dreamland for another hour. Well, at least that’s how it was before we had children. Remember? Ahhhh….
(Snap, Snap) Now, back to reality. You have small children, and their little internal biological rhythms have no idea that your iPhone automatically turned back an hour in the middle of the night. So even though YOUR new time says it’s only 5:30am, their bodies are screaming, “Wake UP! It’s 6:30am. Time to start our day!” This doesn’t just happen the first day after setting your clock back, but it also happens every day thereafter. You drag your exhausted bones out of bed and swear tomorrow morning will be different, only to have this continue for weeks.
Well, I have the SUPERPOWER to help conquer the end of Daylight Saving Time, and I’m going to share it with you.
Here it is: Move to Arizona, and be my neighbor!
We don’t have Daylight Saving Time. Our babies don’t have to deal with this awful shift in their schedules twice a year! I’m serious. There is an empty lot in our cul-de-sac. We can have block parties and discuss infant sleep in detail while we sip hot apple cider in my patio rocking chairs.
Oh. You can’t?
Well, fortunately I have been studying evidenced-based research, and the emergent findings regarding infant sleep are phenomenal. I have created 4 tips to help you conquer Daylight Saving Time sleep disasters.
- The week prior to Daylight Savings shift your child’s schedule by ten minutes.
That means the Tuesday before you change your clocks, you will adjust your baby’s wake time, nap times, and bedtime to 10 minutes later than normal. Each day that week shift another 10 minutes later.
Wait, did you catch it?
Was it an error?
Did you notice that bedtime wasn’t pushed beyond 7:30 pm until the clock was actually turned back? Go look!
A LATER bedtime alone typically does NOT create a LATER wake time. It’s about shifting the baby’s entire day.
Parents, this is what research demonstrates:
An early bedtime helps babies sleep later in the morning.
When a mom contacts me about her baby waking up too early, the first thing I suggest is making bedtime earlier (i.e. 6:45-7:15 pm). Although it seems logical that a later bedtime would cause a later wake time, it rarely does. The “sweet spot bedtime” that makes going to sleep the easiest and staying asleep the longest is 7:00-7:15 pm.
So, if your baby’s current bedtime is after 7:30pm. Do NOT push it forward. This, most likely, will not help your baby sleep later in the morning. On Sunday, you can put your baby to bed at 6:45-7:00 pm (which will feel like 7:45-8 pm).
(**If you are finding this blog post and have missed the week before the clock change, keep reading. The following tips will be helpful.)
2) Maintain a very consistent bedtime routine.
If you took The ABC’s of Sleep Class for your baby, you will remember how we discussed the importance of cuing your little one’s brain that bedtime is imminent. Each night, do the same activities in the same order. The routine doesn’t have to be complicated; it just needs to be the same each night.
For example: bath, diaper, jammies, feeding, book, then to the crib. This routine helps signal to your baby’s brain that sleep is coming no matter what time the clock is reading.
Yes, research has proven light (and darkness) is an amazing tool for beating sleep battles.
In the morning, expose your baby to daylight. Get out of the house! Go for a walk. Play at the park. Eat breakfast on the patio. This exposure to daylight early in the day helps produce the sleep hormone, melatonin, that night.
If weather does not permit you to be outside, research shows that bright, indoor light is almost equally effective. Turn those lights on, and allow the sunlight to peek in the windows during your baby’s awake time.
The same idea applies for afternoon and early evening. If your baby is cranky at 6:00 pm and you are wondering how he’ll ever make it to bedtime, expose him to light! (I grew up in Kansas; I know that it’s pitch dark at 6:00 pm in the fall.) Turn on the lights inside the house. It really does help. Just remember to dim them once you start your bedtime routine.
And then… there’s those darn early morning wakings!
Have no fear! I’ll help you win that battle as well.
Please make sure you are blocking out any and all sunlight (I love these black out shades.). Even a small amount of light creeping through the window can cause those tiny eyes to open. You will also want to keep your sound machine up loud enough to drown out any early morning extraneous sounds.
Even with these things in place, some babies do get stuck waking WAY TOO EARLY! It’s brutal.
Now let me say this, if you are struggling because your baby is waking after 6-6:30 am. I’m sorry. That’s a pretty normal waking hour for a baby. However, prior to 6:00 am, we can improve upon.
If your baby is waking at, say 5:30 am and is happy, allow him to talk to himself, play with his toes, sing his good morning song without going in. Each morning, try to wait a bit longer before entering his room. If you immediately go in, you are inadvertently reinforcing early morning wakings. But if you can delay going in there until after 6 am (or as late as possible), your baby will slowly begin to adjust to the later wake times.
But what if your baby is not having it? Your baby is up at 5:30am and is screaming her face off. This is NOT a lovely way to start your day or hers. This is when we use darkness to positively impact our early morning.
If your baby wakes up and is adamant about starting her day at 5-5:30 am, go into her room. Sit next to her crib and try to calm her. If she insists upon being held to calm down, hold her in the dark. Keep the talking to a minimum, and delay the morning feeding. Do not bring your phone into her room (that’s LIGHT!). Wait to feed and expose her to light for 10 minutes. Then, take her out to the living room, turn on the lights, and feed her. Each morning, try to hold out just a bit longer than the day before.
Our goal is to slowly help reset her internal alarm clock.
Please note: In order to make progress resetting that internal clock, you will need to keep her first nap at the normal nap time. For example, if she wakes at 6:30 am and her normal nap time is 9:00 am, keep the 9:00 am nap time even if she awakens at 5:30 am. Yes, she will be tired and grumpy; however, putting her down for a nap an hour earlier (i.e. 8:00 am) will simply cement her early morning wakings.
- Be patient.It takes time to adjust to a clock change. Try to go with the flow and watch YOUR baby’s sleep cues. If your baby needs a mini cat-nap in the late afternoon as her schedule is being shifted, allow it. Remember, she’s human and not a clock. She will adjust in her own time. Getting baby’s schedule back on track can reasonably take up to two weeks. Just give her some grace… and while you’re at it, go ahead and give yourself some too. You got this, Mom!
But wait, I just found this blog, and tomorrow is the end of Daylight Saving Time. What can I do?
If you are just now finding this blog and you don’t have a week to prepare your little one’s body for this transition, please don’t stress. We can still make adjustments (albeit may be a bit rough for a couple of days).
On Saturday (the day before the clock change), expose your little one to lots of light. Get outside, play at the park, go for walks, visit the pumpkin patch, jump in piles of leaves, and let sunlight do its job. Help your baby to stay awake longer than normal before putting him down for each nap (Think 15-30 minutes longer wake time).
Let’s look at an example:
Do you see how the start of each naptime was shifted a little bit later than it typically is? Each wake time was a little bit longer than normal.
Please understand—Your baby may take shorter naps because she is becoming overtired. This will likely make the wake window before the next nap even longer. Do not give in to the temptation to compensate for the short nap with a short wake window. This will only push your baby back towards her normal schedule.
I understand that this will likely make your whole day challenging. Yes, your baby will be fussy and cranky. This is tough, but we need to help him make this adjustment. How do you keep him awake when he’s flashing all the sleepy cues? Be creative! Blast some music and dance around the kitchen, hold him, give him a bath, walk to the mailbox, or simply do whatever it takes to keep him awake longer.
In the late afternoon, go back outside and let the light do its magic. That evening, keep the lights on in the house so that his body is being told that it’s not dark outside. At bedtime, keep him awake 45-60 minutes later than normal. For example, if bedtime is normally 7:15 pm, do whatever it takes to help him make it to 8:00-8:15 pm. The next morning, if he awakens prior to 6:00 am (according to the time on the clock), go back and read Tip #3 about early mornings. On Sunday, follow the clock and try to resume your normal schedule and wake windows. Resume your normal 7:15 pm bedtime. Be consistent and try not to get frustrated. It can take a week or two to really conquer this transition.
Do I HAVE to alter anything?
Some parents choose to keep their baby’s routine exactly the same and not alter anything. For a baby who normally goes down at 7:30 pm and awakens at 6:45 am, this means that following the clock change, this baby would have a schedule of going to bed at 6:30 pm and awakening at 5:45 am.
Some parents find that ignoring daylight savings and just keeping their baby’s routine unchanged is easier. These families simply have a fall bedtime and a spring bedtime. It works for them!
Please remember Daylight Saving Time is about shifting your baby’s circadian rhythm; however, baby sleep involves so much more. If your little one is struggling with night wakings and/or naps, please know help is available. The ABC’s of Sleep is an online class for parents of 5-24 month olds. It is a step-by-step approach for achieving 10-12 hour restful nights in the crib. You can learn more about it HERE.
Cara Dumaplin is not a blogger. She is, however, a mom to four kids who keep her laughing daily. Although she swore she would never date a doctor, it is with joy that she admits marrying her husband, a pediatrician, was the beginning of a crazy-amazing life together. (Albeit, she has had to learn to forgive him for constantly feeding their kids Pop-Tarts for breakfast.) A registered nurse with 18 years experience, Cara’s eyes light up when she discusses her passion of educating, encouraging, and empowering new parents. Follow Taking Cara Babies on Facebook or Instagram for helpful baby sleep tips, successful infant sleep stories, and a glimpse into this chaotic, yet blessed life. For more blogs by Cara, you can click HERE.
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