It's almost time for the good daylight saving. You know, the one where you gain an hour of sleep. But it's not so celebratory for new parents. They know anything that disrupts baby's sleep schedule also disrupts their sleep schedule. So how can you prepare for the Nov. 5 time change without it being a shock to your baby's system?
"With younger babies, you want to gradually make adjustments to their schedules, starting four or five days before daylight saving," says Kim West, sleep expert, clinical social worker and author of Good Night, Sleep Tight. "Move meals, naps and bedtimes a little later; 10 to 15 minutes each day."
An hour's difference may not be a big deal for bigger kids. "Older toddlers and preschoolers who are already sleeping through the night can often handle the change in one fell swoop," she says. But if you think your 3 year old will be bright-eyed and ready to play at 5 a.m., it may be best to adjust his schedule over the course of two nights, pushing bedtime back 30 minutes on Friday and another 30 minutes on Saturday.
Reading this on Nov. 4? It's not too late. West says the best thing you can do is make sure your child is well-napped and able to stay awake a little longer. And on Sunday, you might want to plan for a bonus nap.
A few tools that can help facilitate better sleeping habits: Use light bulbs in the nursery that don't emit blue wavelengths (blue light is known to inhibit melatonin production, the hormone that makes you sleepy) and room darkening shades can do wonders to block out that early-rising sun. A dry diaper is also key to keeping baby asleep — West recommends Pampers.
No matter how prepared you are, there's always the chance your baby will get up earlier than you're ready to rise and shine Sunday morning. "Treat a 5 a.m. wakening like a night wakening," she says, recommending briefly attending to baby, but then returning to bed for an hour or so. And it that fails, there's nap time — maybe for the both of you.
Ultimately, consistency is key in helping your baby adapt to any new schedule. But keep the long-term goal in mind: By helping your little guy stick to a regular sleep pattern, you'll help him learn to differentiate between night and day. Which means eventually, you'll get to sleep through the night again too.