Will the clocks going back affect my baby?

19 Oct 2021

So the clocks are going back by 1 hour in the UK and Ireland at 2am on 30th October 2022. Apart from meaning that Halloween is the next day, Fireworks Night is a week later and Christmas is fast approaching, what does that mean for you? Well it might have used to mean a longer lie in on your Sunday morning, or an extra hour on the dancefloor on your big Saturday night out, but if you are reading this blog that is highly unlikely to be the case now!

Instead, your main focus now is about how that one hour change in the clocks is going to have on your little one’s sleep routine.

So what can you do with your baby when clocks go back?

There is no doubt that this can be a difficult change. It’s a bit like going on holiday to Europe where there’s a 1 hour time difference. I think it’s a bit easier mentally to prepare for that: 1) you are going on holiday! and 2) You are travelling there which means you know that your daytime routine will go out of the window on travel days.

With the clock change, it might seem a little different than that holiday away, but the concept is that same. And for us, we promote two options to handle the change: one is a bit more gradual and in-keeping with their existing routine; the other is a bit more of a “do-it-in-one” approach. Both do work, they just have a different path in getting there.

Let’s look at the gradual approach first (based on a 7am-7pm routine):

  • On the Wednesday night before the clocks go back an hour, start to adjust your little one’s bedtime, putting them to bed 10-15mins later than usual.
  • Repeat this 10-15mins adjustment on both the Thursday and Friday so that on Friday night, your child’s bedtime is 30-45mins later than normal, i.e. 7.30/7.45pm.
  • If they sleep a little later in the mornings, that is great – let them do so.
  • On the Saturday before the clock change, try to keep them awake until 1 hour after their normal bedtime routine, i.e. 8pm.
  • On Sunday morning, the plan would be for them to wake around 7am with the clock change.
  • On Sunday, follow your existing routine and put your little one down at the normal routine time.
  • Whilst this all seems very “perfect”, it can work; but don’t be alarmed if it takes a few days for your little one to adjust to the new timings.

The “do-it-in-one” approach looks a little different and is as follows:

  • Continue with your normal routine until the Saturday before the clocks change.
  • On the Saturday night, try to keep your little one up a full hour past bedtime (you could let them sleep a little longer for their daytime nap(s) or add in an extra nap depending on their age).
  • If they wake an hour before the normal time, leave them in the room if they are settled – they may drop back off to sleep. If not, try to help them back to sleep and try not to feed them until at least 6am on the new time.
  • Over the next couple of days, they should re-adjust to waking at 7am.
  • If you think that doing one full hour in one day is too much, but the gradual approach is too long, you can do it over 2 nights with a 30mins move each night.

The other approach is to simply do nothing. Some babies are super flexible and the one hour change doesn’t really impact them.

Our advice is to pick an approach which works best for you and your child. Our first two children always fall into the “do-it-in-one” approach as they are good sleepers and can sleep beyond their scheduled time. Our third child Malachy is a little more sensitive around changes to his sleep patterns, and likes an early wake from time to time, so we are going to use the gradual approach with him.

Whichever approach you use, it’s extremely important to not let clock changes allow your child to slip into waking patterns which you will still be trying to resolve when the clocks go forward one hour next March! If your child does end up waking earlier than you would like, have a read of my blog on early wakings to find out more on how to resolve this. 

We are a leading UK and Irish infant sleep consultancy. We have have a series of age-specific online courses (5 months up to 4 years) if you need help with your baby’s sleep.