Time Change Strategies


2013 update: There is a new version of this post with more details. See Shifting Your Schedule for more. For that reason, comments have been turned off on this post.

If you have a young baby, you have yet to discover the “joys” of the time change. The time change can be difficult to work with. The good news, as I write this post, is that the Spring time change is much easier to work with than the Fall time change. As you might imagine, it is easier to wake a baby up an hour early then to get him to sleep an hour late.

I have some methods that have worked really well for me in doing a time change. These really are most beneficial in the Fall time change, but I thought I would post the ideas now since we are approaching the Spring one.

These ideas can also be applied if you are traveling to a different time zone, or if you want to shift baby’s schedule at all.

  • I usually start working on the schedule shift two weeks before the time change and slowly change the morning wake time.
  • Two weeks before the time change, I move the schedule 15 minutes in the direction it will go. So in the Fall, I get him up a bit later, put him down a bit later, etc. I do that for a week.
  • The next week, I move it up another 15 minutes. So we are then 30 minutes behind real time, but in between the new time with the time change.
  • Then time change comes and I either move it the full 30 minutes or do 15 that week and 15 the next week.

The upside: the time change goes really smoothly.

The downside: you are off schedule for at least a couple of weeks. You have to take your pick.

You can also just do it all at once–in the Spring it is pretty easy because you just get them up early.
This year, I am going to wait until the actual time change before I start working on the schedule. The biggest reason for this is that my sister-in-law will be getting married the day before the time change, and our current schedule works well around the event times, while shifting it now would create a schedule that would not work as well.

If you want a smoother transition for the Spring time change, you can wake your child up 30 minutes early the first week, then do the additional 30 minutes the next week. Let’s be honest, it is hard on all of us to wake up an hour earlier!

If your baby or toddler is waking earlier than you want, or you just want to shift the schedule in either direction, these ideas can be applied to make the transition smoother.

Time changes are a task, but it works out.

Reader Questions:

  • bethers21 said…
    I’m having a similar problem with my 4 week old (sorry for all of the questions, but I just discovered your blog and LOVE IT). I’ve just started letting him sleep at night and waking on his own for about a week. Prior to that I had to keep him on a 3 hour schedule at night to gain weight. He sleeps between 3 1/2-5 hours at night. If his 1st feeding is at 7 am, what do I do if he wakes up hungry at 5-6am? Also, I’ll need to adjust his schedule to 6 am when I go back to work. Should I start this now? I like being able to feed him at 7pm and 10pm. We haven’t started a good bedtime yet. At times my husband works late, and like you it’s important that my son gets to spend time with his daddy so if he naps after 7pm we let him. If not, he gets more time with daddy. Any thoughts??
    January 30, 2008 5:52 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    I am glad you like the blog! When do you go back to work? If it is in a couple of weeks, I would probably start to adjust it now. I would for sure do it one week before. It would be good for him to be accustomed to his schedule before you go back. See the Early Morning Feedings before waketime to see my thoughts on that topic:http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/early-morning-feedings-before-waketime.html
    January 30, 2008 6:33 PM
  • kim said…
    I’m a new mother of a 2 month baby girl. I implemented BW from day 1 and Caitlin’s finally sleeping 12 to 6 am. How and when can I move her dreamfeed up to 9p.m. which is my evening feeding? If I also want her first feeding to be 7 am, what’s the best strategy?
    April 5, 2008 9:26 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    Hi Kim,I would first choose one of those goals to work on. Your girl is at an age for at most 7-8 hours of consistent sleep at night, so her 6 hours is great. I would choose which you prefer; earlier eating time or later wake time.For earlier eating time, I would just move it back by 15 minutes a night and see how she does. Only take it up to a total of 8 hours right now, so the earliest would be 10 PM. For later waketime, I would try to stretch her little by little each day. Stretch her to 6:15, then later, etc. You could also do a combo, one hour earlier in the night and one hour later in the morning, unless she can only do 7 hours at night right now. See this post, also:Early Morning Feedings Before Waketime: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/early-morning-feedings-before-waketime.html
    April 6, 2008 10:14 PM

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21 thoughts on “Time Change Strategies”

  1. ugh..I’ve just realized that we fly to the West Coast (from Europe) Oct. 29th…a nine hour time difference…with a 5 month old. Then, Nov 2 is the time change. I geuss it won’t matter with the jet lage we’ll be experiencing!

  2. I have been trying out putting my 8 month old to bed later in in the increments you suggested but I seem to have issues. Her normal bedtime was 7:00… sometimes if she was really tired it would be 6:45. So I have moved the bedtime back to 7:30 little by little. She needs to be awake each morning by 7:30 b/c we are both working parents. Obviously we have had to tweak the rest of her schedule to reflect the change… but she still seems to wake at the same time she was when she was going down at 6:45-7:00. She always wakes around 7:30. Do you have any hints or tips that I could try this week as the time change is getting closer? Sort of related to that question is one more I have… She used to be so great at waking happy and playing in her crib. Just recently (before we started the time change work) she has started to wake from some of her naps crying. and crying VERY hard. I let her CIO for a bit and have tried for 15-20 minutes before and she keeps on… she normally doesn’t cry that much at all…. could there be a reason she wakes happy from some naps and upset from others? thanks again for such a fantastic blog!

  3. I am not really sure what you are asking with your first question. You have to wake her at 7:30 each day because you both work, but she won’t sleep past 7:30? Do you mean on the weekend, or when you have to wake her up on weekdays? Often waking up unhappy is due to not being well-rested enough. It could also be teething pains. There is no shortage of possibilities.

  4. First off, you have a very helpful site. Thanks for all of your hard work. I was hoping to get some advice from you or others concerning a drastic change in time schedules. My husband and I live in Switzerland and will be traveling to the Seattle area for the holidays. We will be leaving the day our daughter is three months old and will be in the states for a whole month. Any suggestions for making the transition of 9 hours easier for all of us?

  5. Elisa, I don’t have any experience with that. One reader moved from the states to Asia and left a comment on one of the posts about it. If you go to the blog index then look under the Travel section, it is in one of those posts. I am pretty sure I have since moved her advice up into the main body of the post. Good luck with it!

  6. Your blog is so helpful and I appreciate your ministry so much.My son is 9 weeks old and consistantly sleeps 9.5 hours per night (9:30p-7:00a). He has been doing well and I normally wake him in the morning. Since the time change he is having a difficult time during his daytime naps. He is crying a lot when I put him down (normally he cries only on and off for less than five minutes) and not sleeping the whole nap. I have been getting him up and rocking him back to sleep for the end of the nap (after an hour of crying / interupted sleep) and he will finish while I hold him. This is very unusual for him. He is not hungry. Any suggestions? I’m just not sure if there this is time change related and would appreciate any advise.

  7. My 5 month baby has been on a 6,9,12,3,6 schedule. He sleeps very well at night; however, the 6p.m. bedtime has been very difficult. It is hard to be home at by 6p.m. every night to feed him at put him down to bed. We will be going to visit family that is in California. That will them make his bedtime be 5 p.m. because of the time zone change. My goal is to move his bedtime to 7 or 7:30 p.m. So, do I just move his schedule up 15 minutes for a week and then do another 15 minutes until I reach my goal time? He seems to have an internal alarm clock that wakes up at 6a.m. on the dot every morning.By following your idea will he eventually not wake up at 6 a.m. Thanks!

  8. I will need lots of luck and some advice from you on "Time Change Strategies" because I will travel with my 6 months old son to Hong Kong from Toronto (12 hours jet lag) for 4 months long at the end of Oct this year. The reader Elisa above had asked you the same question and you asked her to look under the "Travel" section for a comment left by another reader. I did but I couldn't find it. I'm so sorry to ask for this favour for almost a year ago comment but I really need your help on this. Could you please help?? I'm your everyday reader since this April. I guess my son is just a week later than McKenna. That's why your baby summary really help me as a closed reference to my son's growth. Thank you so much for this helpful blog!

  9. Try this post for ideas:Flying with a Baby (the comments section)andTraveling with Baby (the main post has comments from readers)Good luck!

  10. Thank you so much, Valerie! They are really helpful. Again, your blog is the BEST! It is a blessing to lots of moms out there. May God remember your work for others!

  11. Love your blog! It's my lifeline 🙂 I had a question for you about time change. You said that you will gradually change the bedtime/wake up time. How do you change the wakeup time? Do you just leave the baby in the crib until the wakeup time you have set?

  12. Thanks Sara!I leave baby in bed until the new wake up time. But I change in 15 minute increments. My idea is that the metabolism will slowly change. If the baby won't stay in bed until your desired time, at least do the best you can to delay feeding until your desired time.

  13. Hi Valerie,I posted a comment via my phone several weeks ago, and I haven't heard from you so I tried to find where I left that comment to make sure it had posted correctly but I can't find it! So I'll just ask again…my son turns one in about a week. He was sleeping 7-7 before the time change last November, but after it he was sleep 6-6. And considering I used to go to the gym at 6, going at 5 is not a viable option! I have tried longer naps to push the schedule out later, later to bed, earlier to bed, CIO, bringing back early morning feedings, bringing back the dream feed- we have dark curtains, and my husband tries to be super quiet (he gets up at 6 ish) and I'm at a total loss. Will it be possible to get his schedule to move back and hour, or are we stuck with it? (Now that we're almost about to change back!!!!) By the way, he's started not napping well- I read your post on lengthening the wake times a bit- so I will try that- but he's also teething and beginning to walk, so do you think it's just those things that are distracting him from falling asleep, or is about this age a typical time to have to lengthen wake times again? (He has had the same wake times for months now so I just expected that this was where they would stay..)Thanks!

  14. They did for maybe three days- I was waking him up at 7 and it was wonderful! Then since I knew when he had awoken, naptimes were awesome. Then all of a sudden the early wakings started again- I'm starting to suspect it's really because my husband wakes up so early and try as he might even running the bathroom sink wakes me up(and probably my DS too). Do you think a kid could learn to sleep through that?

  15. Another question: even on days my husband doesn't get up early, my son still wakes up early. Do you think it's because he's developed the habit of doing it since most days he gets woken up by the noise of the sink, etc.? This morning he woke up sometime before 6:30- I have tried cloth, disposable, and expensive and special over-night diapers to insure that he's not waking from a diaper. He eats right before bed so I'm doubtful he could be waking from hunger. He is totally done with the day by 7:30, so I don't think that he's just done sleeping, because he couldn't possibly go to bed later, and on the nights where we've had to be out later and he got to bed after 8, he woke up between 6 and 6:30 as normal, so it seems it's not a diaper, hunger, done sleeping, or anything but a habit of waking up at 6:30. I'm at my wits end, because it's impossible to calculate the first wake time of the day when you don't know when he woke up- then the first nap and the whole day is off.

  16. Caitlin, he might learn to sleep through it. He also might not–it depends on if it is waking him and he is having a hard time falling asleep or if he knows "that's dad!" and wants to get up, too.I would say any weekend waking is due to habit.Do you have some sort of sound machine? If not, I would get one. I like humidifiers–we will even run them without water but just use the noise.


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