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Getting ready to spring forward

gettingspringforward.jpgThis year, (in 2008) Daylight Saving Time (often mis-called Daylight Savings Time) begins on March 9 at 2 a.m. We spring forward by setting our clocks ahead one hour at each U.S. time zone’s local 2 a.m. time. For adults this is a mild inconvenience, as we “lose” an hour of sleep, or end up being an hour late for everything, if we’ve managed to forget to change our clocks.

But, for those with babies and still-napping toddlers, this one-hour time difference can disrupt your child’s entire schedule. He dances to the rhythms of his own little internal clock. An hour’s difference can have more than a subtle effect on his mood and disposition, and in turn, your family. As many of us know all too well, if baby’s not happy, nobody’s happy, to paraphrase the usually quoted phrase about mothers.

Get ahead of the game

There are roughly two weeks of Standard Time left until we spring forward. While in many areas of the country it is still dreadfully cold, and spring seems to be nowhere in sight, the days are getting longer, and if you look closely, you might even notice tiny buds on some trees.

Consider that if you wait until March 9th to do bedtime at 8 p.m. DST, according to her internal clock, it will already be 9 p.m.?a full hour past the bedtime that her body has come to expect. Waiting can also affect waking times. If you wait until March 9th, you might find that he’s up a full hour before you’re ready for him to be.

If you have set nap times and bed times, start pushing the times back by up to five minutes every day at nap time and bed time. The small increments of time over the broad stretch will help make the transition to Daylight Saving Time for baby (and toddler) smooth and less painful for everyone in the household.

Here is a sample transition schedule for a child who usually naps at 11:30 a.m. and goes to bed at 8 p.m. in Standard Time, using four minute increments spread out over a two-week period.

  • Thursday, February 21
    Nap time: 11:30 a.m.; bed time: 8:00 p.m. (Baby’s normal Standard Time Schedule)
  • Friday, February 22
    Nap time: 11:26 a.m.; bed time: 7:56 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 23
    Nap time: 11:22 a.m.; bed time: 7:52 p.m.
  • Sunday, February 24
    Nap time: 11:18 a.m.; bed time: 7:48 p.m.

And so on… By the time you get to March 8 your baby’s new sleep schedule will be:

  • Saturday, March 8
    Nap time: 10:30 a.m.; bed time: 7:00 p.m.
    (Set clocks ahead one hour at 2 a.m. Sunday morning)
  • Sunday, March 9
    Nap time: 11:30 a.m.; bed time: 8:00 p.m. (DST)
  • Monday, March 10
    Nap time: 11:30 a.m.; bed time: 8:00 p.m. (DST)

You can see from the above sample plan, that by the spring forward day, baby’s nap times and bed times are “back to normal.” While it may seem tedious and calculating, in the long run, it will help make the switch to Daylight Saving Time as easy as a walk in the park on a spring day. And on November 2, when we “fall back,” just reverse it, and you’ll be golden. This method can work well too, for those parents of wee ones who live in the European Union, where Summertime (the E.U. version of U.S. Daylight Saving Time) begins at 1 a.m. GMT on March 26 and ends October 26.


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