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How to Not Let Daylight Savings Ruin Your Kid’s Routine

The air is still crisp, but I can feel Spring is on the cusp. Ready for a change in pace, temperature and scenery, the winter blues will soon be behind us. Sunday March 10th is daylight savings and our clocks will spring forward. 

I remember there were days when I looked forward to the Fall back time change. In high school, it was an extra hour of sleep, in university it was an extra hour of sleep, studying or time spent at the bar with friends. The colours on the trees would change and my internal clock would wind down and encourage me to prepare for winter hibernation. I certainly didn’t get excited about Spring forward, but overall it didn’t have much of an impact on me.

Habits for adults take two weeks to form, this is also rings true for children.

This past Fall, my husband, Anthony, and I had a bit of a rude awakening. Our son, Isaiah, was 3 months old and we had a good thing going – eat, play, sleep, repeat. I wouldn’t go as far to say it was a firm schedule but we certainly had a rhythm. As a new mama, I was excited to experience another season with my little friend. We went about our usual day, by evening Isaiah went from happy baby to Mr. Grouch in a matter of minutes. We tried it all: bouncing, singing, playing, rocking – nothing worked. Finally, we decided to start the bed time routine. It was an hour ahead of our usual start time but everything we did to distract or entertain Isaiah seemed to exasperate the situation and frustrate our little one. We were at a complete loss. As I lay Isaiah down in his crib, I sat in the rocking chair on my phone and started scrolling, that’s when it dawned on me – we had just experienced our first time change. As new parents it had never occurred to us that we would need to do anything to prepare for something that came and went twice as year. I marked the next time change in my phone and made a reminder to prepare for spring forward. 

Daylight savings – some love it, some loathe it. Fall back threw a wrench in our rhythm so we are trying to get ahead of Spring forward. I had the opportunity to sit down with Catherine Switzer, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (R.H.N.), Labour and Postpartum Doula and Yoga Instructor, to discuss what parents can do to prepare themselves and their little’s for daylight savings. As new parents we constantly hear that our little ones need routine, why is this important? 

As new parents we constantly hear that our little ones need routine, why is this important? 

CS: I strongly believe that routine is not only important to tiny humans, but for adults as well. Children especially thrive on a routine because it provides them with a sense of stability and security. This enables them to navigate their day-to-day and helps prepare them for what to expect in their environment. 

Are there recommended ‘awake’ times for babies?

0-3 months
Sleep at this age is generally on demand, as much as you can implement some routine. For example, try to be consistent with where baby sleeps, the time of bath time, feed, song etc. At this age wake up time will often predict when the next sleep is. You can do your night time routine around 8-9pm.

3-6 months
This is the age that routine for bedtime becomes more important. That stability and security plays a big role as they start to become more aware of distance. I suggest starting the bedtime routine around 7pm.

6-12 months
I recommend starting wind down in preparation for the bedtime routines at this stage. Quiet time should start around 6:30pm, aiming for a 7-7:30 bedtime.

Whatever routine you choose for baby, I highly encourage you to stick to it. I have many clients come to me saying that they have tried so many different methods and routines. The most common barrier is that they try it for 1-3 nights and then give up. Habits for adults take two weeks to form, this is also rings true for children.

What steps should parents follow to adjust their little one’s routine?

CS: The goal is to gradually adjust your child’s bedtime and morning wake up over 6 days so that when the time springs forward on March 10, your little one has already adapted to the time shift.

To start you will adjust bedtime by 15 minutes each day. You can change one clock in your house and designate that the “baby’s clock”. You could change the time on your smartphone since most of us use our phones to tell time, please note if you have appointments don’t forget to set a reminder that your time has changed (mom brain is real!).

You will want to move up wake up time and bedtime each day by 15 minutes. To do this you will wait to pick up or engage with your little one until you hit your target time. Use cuddles and snuggles to try to extend that 15-minute time change in the evening. This gradual change is a much easier transition than one full hour overnight.

If bedtime is 7pm, awake is 6am here is an example of how you would adjust the time:

Day 1: Awake 5:45am Sleep 6:45pm

Day 2: Awake 5:30am Sleep 6:30pm

Day 3: Awake 5:15am Sleep 6:15pm

Day 4: Awake 5:00am Sleep 6:00pm

Adjusting the routine, even by 15 minutes, is tricky. As a new parent, I often default to what has worked in the past, a good song and dance usually does the trick. However, when we are trying to stretch wake times in the evening our little’s can turn into fireballs in a matter of minutes. Can you share any go-to activities to engage baby long enough to make it to 15 minutes?

CS: The time before bed should be quiet time, screens should be placed aside, room should have soft lighting and the sounds should be preparing your little one for a restful sleep (think melodies, acoustics or classical music). Adjusting your story time voice to a soft, calm hum can also help set the tone for sleep. The stimulation from electronics for humans, via the blue light or our brains working hard to digest what we are watching, can disrupt the natural sleep cycle and melatonin production (the hormone responsible for your sleep). 

We all need to be reminded to slow down each day, this is a great way to remind yourself to disconnect, be present and move slower.

We all need to be reminded to slow down each day, this is a great way to remind yourself to disconnect, be present and move slower. Try not to rush through routines that feel like tasks (dinner, bath, PJ time, reading etc). Slowing our movements can range from having an extra conversation with that chatty little one by selecting an extra book, sing a soft song, add in baby massage, take a longer bath and really bask in those extra 15-minutes. These are all routine things that you may already do, you’d be surprised how quickly it can go. When you change your clock, your whole day shifts.

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