Time changes and routine

Clock and time changes with a baby

19 Oct, 2021

Public Service Announcement!

The clocks go back one hour on Halloween, 31st October 2021. This means that Halloween will seem one hour longer this year!

If you’ve been establishing a routine with your little one, or baby is in a familiar pattern with their day then the thought of a time change can fill you with dread. A holiday or the clocks moving forward or back can seem to alter everything and create a lot of worry and confusion.

Firstly, do no panic!

The autumn clock change tends to be the easier one. Although it does result in slightly lighter mornings for a time because we’re heading into winter that doesn’t last too long. It will only get darker in the mornings as the days get shorter. Any early rising because of the change shouldn’t last too long. The dark evenings tend to help sleep onset too. So, it is just dealing with that initial hour change that can through a familiar routine out of whack for a few days.

How to deal with clocks changing

There are a few camps that parents fall into when it comes to the clocks changing.

  • The “do nothing” approach. It will even out eventually. But you will need to set alarms to remind you of any classes or appointments that you need to get to, so you don’t get confused!
  • A gradual move to the new time in the week leading up to the clocks changing. Start 6 days before and move everything later by 10 minutes (getting up, meals, naps, bedtime – all 10 minutes later). When it gets to the day the clocks move, you’ll be at your new timings.

(If you miss this but still want to be prepared you can shift everything by a bigger amount e.g., 15, 20 or 30 min per day.)

  • Deal with it after the clock change. Make everything 10 (or 15, 20, 30 etc.) minutes earlier each day until back to the normal timings.
  • This is the approach I always took with mine when they were small. A busy day (30th October) followed much later bedtime hopefully resulting in a later wake up the next day. We’d then start the next day at the new time immediately. They’d have a shorter day but they would go to bed at their new normal time and still be slightly tired from a busy day and a bit less sleep so it should even out.

Ultimately, like with parenting there is no right or wrong way to deal with it!

Some top tips to making time changes easier

Babies adapt much easier than adults to time changes. When it comes to travel, apart from a few confused days if the time change is large then it should all go ok, but there are a few things that can be done to make everything as smooth as possible.

Daylight exposure

Daylight exposure is important for resetting circadian rhythms (aka ‘body clocks’). Our bodies know when to be tired and when to be alert based upon the amount of exposure to sunlight we receive. This daylight exposure tells the brain whether it is time to release the hormone for sleep or the hormone for alertness. The quickest and best way to reset a circadian rhythm that is a bit wonky is exposure to direct daylight as early as possible in the daytime. Taking a walk, playing in the garden, going to the park are all great. If possible, you will get outside for a minimum of thirty minutes every morning.

Be careful about light

Most tiredness depends upon the effects of light exposure on the eyes and brain. This is easier with the shorter autumn/winter days as it gets darker earlier. But if you are working the other day in spring/summer then close curtains and blinds in the evening, a good hour or so before you want your child to sleep. Do the bedtime routine in this dim lighting and they’ll never know it is light outside. If you’re away from home a travel blackout blind can be helpful.

Noise

Lighter evenings in the spring/summer often means more outside noise for longer. If this is an issue for your baby then try a white noise machine or something that can drown out the background noise.

Bedtimes

If you have established a bedtime routine at a set time, try putting baby to bed 10 minutes earlier each day during the week leading up to the change. This won’t guarantee that he’ll wake up at the right time, but it should at least soften the blow!

Temperature

With the temperature starting to drop it might be worth thinking about the early morning temperature, and at least preparing for it to be chillier and possibly another reason for waking. Setting the timer to go on before the time baby usually wakes can be a good idea, although be careful if you have a noisy heating system as that might wake them!

The same advice applies to switching time zones. You can slowly move things backwards or forwards in the week before you go, depending on where you’re travelling to. On your return, just reverse the process, and be patient as your baby adjusts.

These tips can help you settle your baby when you’re away from home:

  • If your baby usually wakes when the sun rises, pack a travel black-out blind in case their room doesn’t have thick curtains or shutters.
  • You may want to take a plug-in night light with you. Your baby may find it comforting, and it’ll also be helpful for you when you’re putting them to bed in an unfamiliar room.
  • Take your baby’s sheet and blanket so that their sleeping place smells like home.
  • Take along a few of their favourite toys and books so they have something familiar to play with.

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