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Daylight Savings Survival Guide

Tips for helping your baby adjust to the time change

Remember when pushing the clocks back meant an extra hour of sleep? Yeah. That was cool. This Sunday, of course, you’ll most likely be waking up an hour earlier—since your baby could care less what the clock says. In a desperate attempt to salvage those precious morning zzz’s, we asked (begged) the top four baby-sleep experts for their advice on how to survive the time change.

Our panel of experts (Dr. Harvey Karp, Dr. Marc Weissbluth, Elizabeth Pantley, and Suzy Giordano) agreed that sleep patterns are greatly influenced by circadian rhythms (light and darkness), and by social cues such as eating, bathing, and story time. The general consensus was to keep the house dimly lit before bedtime, and to use bright lights after baby wakes up in the morning. Additionally, everyone agreed that sticking to bedtime routines was extremely important in helping your baby transition to the new time.

Beyond those two general rules, our experts shared some helpful tips and tricks:

Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, is all about white noise. “REM sleep gets lighter as you approach the morning, meaning babies are awoken easier by environmental factors such as room temperature, noise, light, and hunger. The result of the time change is that babies often wake up one sleep cycle earlier.” So how do you get your child to hold onto that last sleep cycle? “Play a white-noise CD throughout the night. The lull of white noise will draw a baby’s attention away from a cool room, morning sounds, pangs of hanger—and back to sleep.”

Suzy Giordano, author of Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old, suggests adjusting your baby’s sleep schedule by 15-minute increments starting two days before the official time change. “It will be just enough of a change to help your baby through the change without any major set backs. You can also apply the 15-minute incremental changes to naps.”

Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution, also suggests shifting the bedtime by 15-minute increments, starting up to four days before the time change. “Just because the clocks officially change at 2 A.M. doesn’t mean you have to change yours at that time,” says Pantley. “Consider changing your clocks mid-afternoon the day before the time actually changes. This way, you’ll make a partial adjustment to the new time before it actually comes into effect. You’ll have adjusted your child’s nap and evening meal to the clock, which will help the bedtime adjustment flow more smoothly.”

Dr. Marc Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, says, “Well-rested children should have no problem adjusting. If your child does not adjust within a few days, it’s most likely due to an accumulated sleep debt. Try an earlier bedtime for at least one week to get your baby back on track: watch your child between 4pm and 5pm. Is she calm and sweet, or is she short-fused? If the latter, lights out at 5:30pm. If the former, 6:30pm.”

Here’s wishing all of you a smooth transition.