Updated: Oct 18
How to help your baby adjust to the clock change happening in the UK on Sunday 29th October 2023
When my two were younger, clock changes always caused me anxiety. I used to dread what it would mean for sleep and it always seemed to coincide with a period where we had just reached a period of relatively good sleep, so there was more at risk! The silver lining of when you are in a really tough sleep phase; it can’t get much worse .
If you are in the UK, come the last Sunday of October the clocks are going back by an hour. Pre kids, this used to mean a lovely extra hour in bed, whereas with little ones it often means waking up early. Not good news for those of us with early risers, but fear not there are things you can do to prepare and to make this change as smooth as possible.
Here are three options for the clock change:
The easiest and least confusing - do nothing. This is a great option if your little one is a relatively easy going (dandelion-like or the opposite of a spirited or highly sensitive baby), they are on a loose routine and adapt easily to changes in their routine.
Split the difference – the night before the clock change (Saturday) put your little one to bed half an hour later than they usually go to bed. If your little one is still napping then you can put them down for their nap 30 mins later than usual. In theory, this should help them make it to a later bedtime and help them to adjust their circadian rhythm (internal body clock) for the time change.
Preparing five days before the clock change. This is a good option for those with babies who are taking naps at fairly consistent times or those who have little ones who are sensitive to changes in their routine. This option allows you to make very slight time changes to your little one’s bedtime in the days leading up to the clocks changing. You will also need to adjust the rest of their routine (naps, meals, feeds etc.) by the same amount of time. So, for the clocks going back, you should try to move bedtime, forward (later) by approximately 15 mins every day from Wednesday.
For example, on Wednesday of the week before the clocks change Move bedtime 15 minutes later. This will mean that if your little one normally goes to bed at 7.30pm, you will put them down at 7.45pm. Do the same for their nap (if they have one), so for example, if they usually nap at 12 noon, have their nap at 12.15pm. On Thursday, the same again with their nap and bedtime so that they happen 15 minutes later than yesterday. On Friday the same again with their nap and bedtime so that they happen 15 minutes later than yesterday. On Saturday adjust the timings by a final 15 minutes and on Sunday you will be on the new time schedule, hopefully with minimal impact to your little one's sleep.
If your little one does wake up extra early, try to keep things super dark and calm with white noise on (if they use it) to signal that it's not quite time to get up yet. Once it is time to get up, draw the curtains/blinds to let daylight in and use your day time voice to signal the day has started.
It can take a little time for you and your little one to adjust to the new time, but there are things we can do to help our circadian rhythm regulate to the new time:
Get lots of fresh air and natural light (ideally in the morning and for at least half an hour a day).
Have meal times at the new times.
Make sure bedrooms are pitch black (it will become lighter in the morning).
Reduce screen time before bed (ideally no screens two hours before bed)
Stick with a predictable bedtime routine
If your little one continues to wake early for a while, make sure you look after yourself and protect your sleep and energy levels. Aim to go to bed earlier to prepare for the possibility that your little one might wake quite early or if you can, nap in the day with your child. Usually the effects of the clock change are short lived and everyone should be back to their usual rhythms and wake up times within a couple of weeks.
Want some more support with your child's sleep ?
If you would like to learn more about sleep and have guidance on how you can support your little one’s sleep without using cry it out methods and get more sleep for everyone, then check out my online courses:
These are designed to teach you all about what can impact your child’s sleep, to identify and support your child’s particular sleep needs as well as how you can move away from any unsustainable sleep habits.
If you would prefer to get some personalised sleep support with a plan of action for your little one, you can find out more about my 1:1 packages here.