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how to manage the clocks going back with a baby

How to handle baby sleep when the clocks go back

How do you keep your child’s sleep routine on track when the clocks change in the Fall? 

It’s hard to maintain a good baby sleep routine at the best of times and no sooner have you got your child into a good routine than something happens to disturb it. Perhaps it’s teething, or a sleep regression. One thing that’s beyond your control, however, is that the clocks go back in the Fall. 

Babies have no concept of the clock change and are governed only by their own body clocks. How do we help them to transition through the loss of an hour's sleep? 

When and why do the clocks go back? 

The date the clocks change can vary by region and country so check for the specific dates where you are.

How does the clocks going back affect your baby? 

The good news? You get an extra hour in bed (if your baby will allow you to). The bad news? It can play havoc with your baby’s bedtimes for the next few days to come. 

How can I avoid an overtired baby when the clocks go back? 

Some parents start reacting to the clock change early and gradually change their baby’s bedtime each night. This will get them ready for the change and is suitable for those with a very strict baby bedtime routine.

If you do want to prep ahead, start putting them down for their naps and bedtimes 10 to 15 minutes later each day. Start four days ahead. When Sunday is here, your routine will be an hour ahead in preparation for the clock change. If, after the clock change, your baby starts to wake earlier, slowly move their naps and bedtime forward by 10 to 15 minutes every day until they’re waking at a civilised hour. Try to stick to your usual bedtime routine as consistently as you can.

 Your baby’s clock change sleep routine may look like this:

  • Baby goes to bed at 7pm usually.
  • First night, move bedtime to 7.15
  • Next night, move bedtime to 7.30
  • Next night, move bedtime to 7.45
  • Last night (clock change night) move bedtime to 8pm 

Once this transition has been made, you will continue to put your baby to bed at the usual time of 7pm but as the clocks have changed, this will not affect her sleep at all. Her body will be used to this new time. And hopefully she won't wake up at 6am instead of 7am!

baby naps when the clocks go back

Don't forget to adjust naps, too 

If your daytime routine allows it, adjust your baby's naps to suit the clock change too. It will make it so much easier when the clocks have moved back an hour. Don't forget that if your little one is finding it hard to adjust to a new nap time, SnoozeShade is your friend! Lots of families report that the shade acts as a sleep cue for their little ones, and at the very least you're blocking out stimulation, which can make sleep a lot easier.

Make sure your baby bedtime routine is up to scratch 

A good bedtime sleep routine is so important for little ones, never more so than when the clocks are changing. Start tweaking it now if you need to, to make sure that everything is running smoothly when the clocks move back. Remember to stay consistent and all will work out well.

Make sure your child's bedroom is inviting for sleep 

Again, now is the time to check your child's bedroom and make sure that it is a suitable environment for sleep. Is it warm enough, dim enough and safe enough? You want to eliminate all possible problems so that the transition to new sleeping times goes as well as possible.

Praise older kids 

When your child is not quite so little anymore, the clock change can be a different kind of challenge. Some parents allow older kids to stay up a little later on clock change night, so that they don’t want to get up earlier than usual the following day. But as we all know, this doesn't always work! The best thing to do is to change the clocks in their bedroom (if you have one) the night before and let them know what's happening. Explain that they still need to get up at the usual time and praise them when they do so. It's only an hour but when it comes to getting up either at 5am or 6am, we know which we would prefer! 

With thanks to Lucy Shrimpton, The Sleep Nanny, for her help with this post. Lucy has helped hundreds of tired parents and children around the world to win bedtime battles and finally gain the gift of a good night’s sleep. Combining insights from psychology, sleep, parenting and wellness, Lucy helps mothers all over the world to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. 

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