Skip to main content

Tips for keeping baby on a sleep schedule with the fall time change

All parents know that we don’t gain an hour of sleep like everyone else with the time change — our kids get us up no matter what. With the delicate balance of baby sleep schedules, the fall time change can be a nightmare for parents struggling to establish a routine, especially given how tough it is to get babies on a good sleep schedule in the first place. However, don’t worry about “fall back” too much. It may take a few days, but your baby will adjust to the change and everything will return to normal soon enough. These tips will help get you there with some extra confidence.

baby on back sleeping
LeManna / Shutterstock

Accept that adjustment will take time

Babies can take several days and sometimes more than a week to fully adjust, so go into the fall time change with realistic expectations. A gradual shift will be easiest on all of you to avoid freak-outs around changing a baby sleep schedule by a full hour, so this will take some time, but that’s OK. You’ll have the time change behind you before you know it.

Get blackout curtains

If you don’t already have a pitch-black room for sleep, consider getting blackout curtains now so that your baby is less able to tell that the sun has come up. This will help with their confusion about wake-ups and bedtimes looking different with more or less sunlight. Open the curtains when you wake them up to orient them to the time, but for going to sleep and staying asleep, eliminate the sunlight cues.

Start early

If you have a well-established sleep routine with an older baby, you don’t necessarily have to do anything to prepare for the shift. However, if your baby has a difficult relationship with sleep or is a young infant, prep ahead of time to make the transition smoother. Starting up about one week before the time change day, push bedtime later by 5-15 minutes every 1-3 days. If you can manage 5 minutes every day or one 15-minute change every three days, your baby will barely notice the smooth transition. Feel free to do this even with a champion sleeper if you’re feeling nervous about the time change.

Use incremental change

Whether you start the day after the change or days before, use incremental changes of 30 minutes or less to bedtimes and naptimes. Even though we are “falling back” an hour, that actually means you have to push bedtime and naptime forward an hour to make up for it. If you didn’t start incremental changes before the change day, the easiest way to do it is to move bedtime forward by half an hour on the change day and use that bedtime for 2-3 days before moving it forward the second half-hour to complete the adjustment. Moving bedtime a whole hour at once is less likely to be successful.

Baby girl sleeping in a bed
Aida Jeddi / Unsplash

Adjust the whole daily schedule

Bedtime isn’t the only part of your daily schedule that needs to be moved–naptimes, mealtimes, and everything else need to shift as well. If your child wakes up an hour early (actually the same time but now an hour earlier on the clock), have them wait an extra 30 minutes before getting to their first naptime and keep pushing them longer on all parts of the day until they’ve adjusted. It’s best not to eliminate any naps, just move their timing. Keeping the routines the same but with the time change is best. Routines staying constant will help the return to stability.

Don’t make any other changes

Keep the whole bedtime routine the same throughout. This isn’t the time to move out of your room, change a bedtime routine element, wean from breastmilk, or graduate from a crib to a toddler bed. There’s enough change already happening without adding anything else.

Baby sleep with a fall time change can be stressful, but just remember to take it minute by minute and day by day to make a gradual shift. Anticipating it with apprehension doesn’t help anybody, so just remember these small adjustments will all even out sooner rather than later. Some babies even adjust absolutely fine without any incremental changes and only take a couple of days to completely adjust. Like with all things parenting, take a deep breath and do your best while trying not to worry too much.

Editors' Recommendations

Sarah Prager
Sarah is a writer and mom who lives in Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, National…
When do babies start saying mama?
At what age does a baby say mama
Smiling parents talking to their baby

Baby milestones are so exciting, and parents love everything their little one does from day one. Of course, parents can't wait for baby to start talking. Those first words are memorable and proud parent can't wait for baby to say mama and dada. When should parents expect to hear their adorable baby utter their first words? According to the Mayo Clinic, by the end of baby's first year, you may head baby say mama. Most babies begin uttering simple words like mama and dada at around the 12-month mark. Every baby's speech and language development is different though. Some little ones may start talking sooner than others, which is what makes speech and language developmental milestones so important.

How does baby start talking
Even before your baby starts speaking, they’re communicating. Babies use crying as an early communicator. This quickly expand to gestures, signs, and pointing to help parents understand what they want. All these signals help prepare your baby for their talking debut. These interactions teach children the basics of communication and the concept of language. Parents are a baby's primary role model when it comes to speech and language development. Baby's first year is full of speech and language milestones which help little ones on their way to speaking their initial words.

Read more
6 essential first-time pregnancy tips every new mom should know
Take the fear out of pregnancy by following these 6 essential tips
Pregnant woman feeling her baby kick

In addition to being exciting and amazing, being a first-time mom can sometimes feel overwhelming and scary – as taboo as some may think that is. Although many think that pregnancy and how to handle it will come naturally for most, that couldn't be further from the truth. Despite all the uncertainties, carrying your first child, getting to experience all those “first” moments, and discovering and nurturing the growing bond between you and your unborn baby is something no other person could understand unless you have lived it.

Taking a test and confirming pregnancy is merely the first step into parenthood, and doing it for the very first time is understandably nerve-wracking. To help ease the worry and overthinking, we’ve built a “new mom survival guide” of practical and realistic first-time pregnancy tips to help get new moms through their worry and fear of carrying their little ones.

Read more
Sleep sack vs. swaddle: What’s the safest option for putting your baby to sleep?
The pros and cons of a sleep sack vs. swaddle
Baby in a swaddle sleeping.

It's important for everyone in a home with a new baby to get their beauty sleep. Or at least try to. Parents throw their favorite blanket on for a quick nap before the next feeding, and your baby might want something similar. But tiny babies can't rest safely with a loose blanket in their crib. So, what can they sleep with to keep them safe and warm? The two main options include a sleep sack and a swaddle. So, what is a sleep sack, and what is a swaddle? They're both wearable blankets that stay on without going over the face like a loose blanket could. Which should you snuggle your baby in for bed? We'll look at sleep sack vs. swaddle pros and cons so you can choose the safest choice for your tiny tot.

Swaddles: Their uses, benefits, and drawbacks
Best for newborns and babies who can't roll over yet
Swaddling is the first way babies are wrapped up right after being born. Every baby gets that same blanket for their first swaddle, and it's always adorable. A swaddle can be a blanket wrapped tightly to form a baby burrito or a cloth product specifically made with Velcro or another adhesive to wrap the baby.
Why a swaddle?
Swaddles make an infant feel safe and sleep better. Because newborns are used to feeling pressure inside the womb, they get stressed when they are on the outside without that surrounding comfort. A swaddle gives them the feeling of being held tight.

Read more