Daylight savings time starts this Sunday, March 7. in the United States. It doesn't start for another month in Mexico, not until April 5.
Daylight savings time is rough, especially for parents.
Or rather, the "fall back" at the end of daylight savings time is rough. "Springing forward" is actually a lot easier in most cases.
If your little one is waking too early, this is the perfect opportunity to reset her clock. Just get her up at her regular time and voila, it's magically an hour later!
The only challenge with this is, if you want to keep her waking at this suddenly-later time, you have to keep the rest of her schedule on the "old time" too. If you adjust her meals and her naps to DST, you can expect her early wakings to return, too.
Of course, early wakings are almost always the result of a too-late bedtime, so it might be easiest to focus on solving that problem. For more tips on that, check out Why Does My Child Wake Up So Early?
If you want your child to continue waking at the same time -- for most children, a wake time between 6-7:30 am is ideal for the best rest at night -- try to start transitioning the schedule now, if you are in the States, or 6 days prior, if you are in Mexico or another place with a different start date for DST.
Everything in your child's schedule will need to shift. Get him up 10 minutes earlier, feed him 10 minutes earlier, put him down to nap 10 minutes earlier. Tomorrow you will do it 10 minutes earlier than you did today. And so on. So that by the time DST arrives, you are already on the correct schedule. Easy peasy!
If you weren't that organized, no problem! Just start the transition as soon as you can. Or allow your child to transition gradually next week, if work and daycare schedules permit.
As the days get longer, children will also struggle with early wakings because the sun is rising earlier. Make sure your child's bedroom is equipped with really great blackout shades. Any leakage of light can lead to early wakings when your child is naturally less tired after a long night of sleep. Not sure you want to invest? Try taping garbage bags over the windows for a few days. I did this with my older daughter and her room was depressingly dark and cave-like but suprisingly effective at creating great naps. Your local hardware store will likely have inexpensive stick-on black out shades as well.
Make sure you are using white noise as well, to block out outside noise. The birds -- and the garbage trucks -- will be getting up extra early as the days get longer. I love this one -- it's suprisingly loud, inexpensive, lightweight and portable -- you can power it with batteries if there isn't an outlet available. We bring it on all our trips, even when we go camping!
As the days get longer, it's also easy to let bedtime slide later. It's harder to keep track of the time when the sun is shining so brightly. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you when to start bedtime. If the living room is sunny and bright, consider transitioning to a darker room an hour before bedtime. Exposure to darkness naturally encourages our bodies to produce melatonin, a hormone that causes sleepiness. Exposure to blue light from screens does the opposite, so make sure to avoid them in the hour before bedtime.
Any shift in schedule can be stressful with little ones, but the start of DST in most places is a lot easier than the end of DST. A little preparation can make this transition even easier!
For help with transitioning your child to a time change, addressing early wakings, or any other sleep challenge, set up a free chat so we can get your family the sleep you deserve.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and former NICU nurse. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.