Adjusting Baby's Sleep Schedule for Daylight Savings Time (Fall)

If you have napping children, you may be wondering what you’re supposed to do with Daylight Savings Time (DST) coming up. There are lots of different ways that you can approach DST, and each of the following ways will work just fine. No matter which option you choose, Baby will eventually adjust to the new timing; just make sure to expose her to plenty of sunlight and even artificial light during her awake times so that her body can learn the new timing. Light and activity will help her acclimate, especially when you’re trying to get her to go a little longer between sleeps than she’s used to.

When the hours on the clock fall back, that doesn’t mean you have to fall over as your little one’s sleep falls apart. Check out these tips so that Baby can adjust to Daylight Savings without skipping a beat!

Cold Turkey

Honestly, I think the simplest way to deal with DST is to go on with Baby’s normal schedule even after the time change. For babies 6+ months, I recommend the following schedule parameters:

  • Waketime no earlier than 6am, usually no later than 7am

  • Nap 1 at 9am - Use Crib 60

  • Nap 2 at 1pm - Use Crib 60

  • Nap 3/bedtime after a designated amount of waketime

So that means that the day before DST, 10-month-old Baby wakes up at 6:30am, naps at 9:00am and 1:00pm, and goes to bed around 6:30pm. The day after DST, Baby will likely wake up around 5:30am, but since that’s before 6am, you’d employ your usual training method until 6am. Baby may then start to seem ready for a nap around 8:00am, but hold out until the new 9:00am, or as close as you can get to it.

Continue to follow Baby’s normal schedule, even though Baby herself will be a little bit off the normal schedule. It may take a few days or even a week or two for Baby to fully acclimate, but it’s no different than normal sleep training, when babies’ schedules are drastically changed and they then have to adjust to the new, age-appropriate schedule. So in this case, you just treat DST a little bit like you would any sleep training, and just as with normal sleep training, consistency and proper scheduling will be key ingredients to your success.

Three Days

If you want to ease into DST a little bit slower, you can adjust the schedule by 30 minutes over a few days. Two days before DST, Baby wakes up at 6:30am, naps at 9am and 1pm, and goes to bed at 6:30pm — her normal schedule. The next day, Baby wakes up at 6:30am, but you wait to get her until 7:00am. You put her down for nap 1 at 9:30am and nap 2 at 1:30pm. You put her down for bed at 7:00pm. On the day of the time change, you wait until (new) 6:30am to get Baby out of bed (she may sleep in closer to 6:30am because her bedtime the night before was pushed later, but she may not). Then you put her down for her naps at (new) 9am and 1pm, and for bed at (new) 6:30pm. You are helping her get back to the same timing that she was doing before, even if she’s still not quite doing it. Keep up her usual timing and she should adjust within a few days to two weeks.

One Week

If you’re catching this blog post far enough in advance of DST, you can do a slower option. A week before DST, begin shifting Baby’s schedule 10 minutes later each day.

On day 1, Baby’s schedule will be: 6:30am wake, 9:00am nap, 1:00pm nap, 6:30pm bedtime.

On day 2, Baby’s schedule will be: 6:40am wake, 9:10am nap, 1:10pm nap, 6:40pm bedtime.

On day 3, Baby’s schedule will be: 6:50am wake, 9:20am nap, 1:20pm nap, 6:50pm bedtime.

And so on, until the day before DST, Baby’s schedule will be: 7:20am wake, 9:50am nap, 1:50pm nap, 7:20pm bedtime. Then on the day of DST, you’ll use your normal timing again.

Keep in mind that we can’t force Baby to sleep when she won’t; we can only enforce Crib 60 and the times we get her out of her crib. So if she doesn’t sleep in until 6:50am on the day she’s supposed to, that’s okay; just make sure to not get her out of bed until 6:50am to help her learn that she’s supposed to still be sleeping. And if she seems tired 10 minutes before you’re supposed to put her down that particular day, just hold out for 10 extra minutes so her body learns the new naptime or bedtime.

If Baby is under 6 months and you’re not yet using a circadian schedule, I advise using a slow shift (the one-week option), whether you start the shift a week before the time change or the day of the time change. Just extend each waketime by 10 minutes so that it pushes Baby’s schedule slightly later each day, until she’s back to waking and sleeping when she usually does. And for many younger babies, you don’t even have to worry about DST since their schedules are so irregular anyway.

So don’t fret too much about the time change — Baby will adjust just fine as long as you consistently stick to your plan of action. And if you find that Baby’s schedule simply isn’t returning to normal — or if Baby was never on a predictable schedule to begin with — don’t hesitate to schedule a mini consult or book a full consultation to get things back on track.