Do you children usually wake up at dawn that day we push back the clocks? Here’s how to get their bedtimes and wake-times back to normal.
By Chaya Shifra Sadoff
Some things in the world should just be predictable, know what I mean?
That steady tick-tick-tick of the second hand is rhythmic, soothing, predictable. I know that at the end of every 60 minutes, it’ll have been another hour. Every 24 hours, another day… right?
Well, most of the time.
But not always.
You could say the government just wants to keep you on your toes, but twice a year we change things up a bit—a 23 hour day and a 25 hour day. It’s like your teacher making sure you’re listening, except they call it something fancier: Daylight Savings Time.
And the fun part of it is that your kids—the ones who you FINALLY got onto a decent schedule now that summer and Yom Tov are over—are now going to be out of whack again.
So unless you’d like to put them all to bed an hour earlier every night—and wake up an hour earlier, too—let’s dive in to some practical tips: how to adjust your kids to the new time—and a super-mom tip: how to get your extra hour of sleep on Motzei Shabbos.
The Easy Switch for Newborns (and many babies 3-6 months)
Since I don’t really believe in schedules for the sake of schedules, and focus more on awake time limits, the day of babies under 6 months is often a little bit unpredictable. Some babies will fall into a regular routine with their nap length, which will result in a regular, predictable day (if your baby falls into that category, see adjusting tips below), but if your baby falls into the former category, bedtime is usually more of a moving target: you aim for around 7, and it’ll happen somewhere between 6 and 8.
This age is the easiest when it comes to clock change: just move your bedtime goal hour to the “new” 7 once you change the clocks and you are good to go!
Bigger Babies, Toddlers, Pre-schoolers and Beyond
Once a (well-rested) baby hits around 6 months, their longer awake time limit (about 2-3 hours), along with the consolidation of daytime sleep (translation: longer naps) will usually result in a predictable 2-nap day and 12 hour night. While their awake time limit will continue to lengthen as they get older, for most little kids (especially those under 8 who still need about 12 hours of nighttime sleep) being up a whole extra hour is a little too tough for them. So, to make this transition smoother—and to prevent you from having an overtired nutcase on your hands—I like to split the difference.
(I know, I know—you’re wondering about how you can get that miraculous extra hour of sleep on Motzei Shabbos. Hang in here with me—I’m getting there!)
Babies under 12 months on a predictable schedule (usually 6-12 months of age):
While a baby is still on a 2-nap day, their awake time limit generally doesn’t allow for very much variation in length. For this age, I split the hour into 4 15 minute chunks, so that each day, for 4 days, you’re changing things by only 15 minutes.
Babies over 12 months, Toddlers and Pre-schoolers (& beyond)
These cute kiddos are able to do a bit more than just 15 minutes, but a full hour at a time is still a wee too much for those cute little brains to handle. For these fellas, we’ll only move 30 minutes at a time—but we’ll take things a little slower. Change 30 minutes; hold there for 3 days; then move the last 30 minutes.
Ready to do some magic and see how this works?
The Magical Insider’s Trick (Warning: it’ll hurt your brain!)
The key to helping you get that extra hour of sleep is to do the time change in advance of the actual clock change. How far in advance to do it is completely up to you (I had a client tell me she did it a full 2 weeks in advance!), but keep in mind that if your child(ren) are a little bit more sensitive, they may need some more time to adjust, and it might be helpful if you stretch out the length of time at each change (for example: 15 minutes every 2-3 days for babies below 6 months, or 30 minutes for a full week for older babies and kids).
So now I’m going to hurt your brain a little bit.
Since we’re moving the clocks back, we need to move your child’s schedule forward. I know it doesn’t really make sense at surface level, so I’m going to walk you through this verbally, and I want you to pull out an analog clock so you can follow along with me.
Let’s say bedtime is currently at 7:00 (because I always use my own kids’ schedules, and that’s what we do). Okay? So I want you to set the clock to 7:00.
Now we’re going to bump bedtime and naptime 30 minutes forward for 3 days. My goal is to be on “new” time by Friday night, so since we always start with nighttime when making changes to children’s sleep, we’ll do Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night bedtime at 7:30. My baby’s 11:30 naptime will become 12:00 on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Got it? So I want you to move your clock to 7:30 now.
If you’re still with me, let’s move on to phase 2: moving the second half hour.
Starting on Friday night, we’re going to adjust that second half hour, which will bring us to an 8:00 bedtime. So bedtime on Friday night and Motzei Shabbos will be at 8. Sir G’s nap on Shabbos will be now a complete hour later than when it usually is—12:30.
If your baby would be under 12 months — say a 9 month old with a 9:30 nap and a 2:30 nap, by the time you get to Friday night, bedtime will also be at 8, but we’ll move a little bit differently to get there: Tuesday night bedtime at 7:15 so Wednesday morning wakeup is at 7:15, and Wednesday day naps at 9:45 and 2:45. On Wednesday night, you’ll do another 15 minutes: bedtime at 7:30, Thursday wake-up at 7:30, naps at 10 and 3. Thursday night, you’ll do a 7:45 bedtime, Friday morning starts at 7:45 also, and then naps are at 10:15 and 3:15. And then, by Friday night, we’ll be at an 8:00 bedtime, with all naps Shabbos day an hour later than their usual time.
You ready for me to work my magic?
Now sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I’ll wave my magic wand and 8 will magically become 7. (Or at least that’s what I thought happened as a kid—really what’ll happen is you’ll go around the house and move all the clocks back an hour—so that 8:00 becomes 7:00 again!)
Did you do it with your clock? Does your brain hurt? (If you did it with a clock it shouldn’t!) Does it make sense? (If you used your clock, it should!)
And if you don’t want to do the magical insider’s trick…
Depending on how much time you have in the morning from wake-up until your kids need to be out the door, making the time change in advance may not work for your family. If that’s the case, not to fear: you can always make the change afterwards!
As with the first strategy, you’ll still split the difference — 30 minutes every 3 days for kids with over 12 months and 15 minutes every day for younger babies.
Since you will have changed the clocks already, your kids’ 7:00 bedtime will now be at 6:00. To split the difference, start with bedtime on Sunday night at 6:30. Naps on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be 30 minutes early, and you’ll hold bedtime at 6:30 for Monday and Tuesday nights, too. Starting Wednesday night and Thursday day, bedtime and nap times will be back to regular time.
Of course, you can play around with it — if you want to start on Friday night or Motzei Shabbos, follow the same guidelines and make this work for your family.
Your Last Step: Be Patient!
Like I said above, some kids do this transition easily and smoothly, while others will take a little longer — up to 2 weeks is normal! — before things really fall into place.
If your newborn, infant or toddler was struggling with sleep even before the clock change, and you’re looking for a quick and easy guide on the foundation of good sleep, I’ve got just the thing for you — check out my free guide on the Five Habits You Didn’t Know Your Baby Needs So You Can BOTH Sleep Well At Night.
About Chaya Shifra:
Chaya Shifra Sadoff is mom of twins and a miracle worker (under the guise of a Certified Sleep Sense Consultant and Lactation Counselor). She works with mothers across the world to build the motherhood they dreamed of by transforming their children (newborns, infants and toddlers) into superstar sleepers. She would also would love feedback from YOU! Shoot her an email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 847-868-9465, find her on instagram @kinderwink or check out www.kinderwink.com for more great tricks, tips, and info.