Baby and Toddler Sleep Pattern

It’s spring again, which means the clocks go forward an hour. In some ways that’s lovely, because it means summer is on the way and the nights will get lighter. But if you have a child who you’ve just got into a good bedtime routine, you might find that the changing of the clocks affects their sleep. Bear in mind that your baby or toddler doesn’t actually know the time – they use their own inner clock – use that to your advantage. The secret is to be prepared, and with just a little bit of effort, you’ll find their sleep routine gets back to normal really quickly. Here are some tips to help you prepare your little one for time changes.

Adjust daytime naps to compensate

You’ll probably find that after the clocks change your little one will be tired before their “usual” bedtime – for example, if it’s 7pm they will be tired at 6pm once the clocks go forward. Try waking them a little later, moving their daytime naps forward or letting them sleep longer during the daytime – this will help regulate their body clock and assist them with moving their natural bedtime an hour later.

Move bedtime earlier

Perhaps the easiest way to get your little one used to the time change is to move bedtime earlier by a few minutes every day. Start about a week before the clocks change and move bedtime earlier by just 5 minutes every day. They will not notice this small difference and within a week of the clocks changing bedtime will be back at its proper time.

Stick to the original time.

If your little one normally wakes up too early then you might be able to use the clocks changing to your benefit. Leave bedtime at its usual time – so an hour later by the clock – and with any luck, they will sleep an hour later in the morning, at least by the clock. So if little one normally goes to bed at seven and wakes at six, put them to bed at 8 (new time) and they will hopefully wake at 7 (new time), giving you a psychological lie in!

Finally, another tip is to fit blackout blinds. Lighter evenings can make it harder for a child to sleep, whatever time you put them to bed, using blinds keeps the daylight out and helps your little one realise it is time for sleep.

How have you handled the time change previously? What do you do when you travel to another time zone with your little one? I love to hear from you, the information you share will benefit other parents.

One of the nicest transitions I experienced with my first born was when we decided to consolidate her two short daytime naps into one big one, right in the middle of the day.

I can’t deny it, I loved the time off in the middle of the day. She went from sleeping an hour and a half in the morning, and a little less than that in the afternoon, to sleeping a solid three hours a day, right smack dab in the middle of the afternoon.

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One of the central rules of sleep training is that you should allow your little one to develop their abilities to fall asleep on their own. So it can cause a real “Should I or shouldn’t I” moment when you look at the baby monitor and see that your child has pushed themselves into an uncomfortable looking ball against the side of their cot.

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I get asked this question a lot, and I have two answers for you.

First of all, the clinical one. If your child’s six months or older, gaining weight as expected, and your doctor says you’re okay to end night time feeds, then go ahead and give it a shot.

But that doesn’t really answer your question, does it? Because that information is readily available on about a thousand different websites. If that was all you needed to know, you’d know it already.

Chances are, what you’re really asking is, “Why does my baby refuse to give up his night feeds?”

Because if you’d pulled his night feeds and he just accepted it and started sleeping through the night, you wouldn’t be online looking for information about it. You’d either be in bed, enjoying eight hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep, or you’d be at the playground, telling all the other moms how easily your little guy gave up night feeds, and how this whole parenting thing is such a breeze!

(Don’t do that though. Moms hate that.)

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If there’s anything that can send your child’s sleep off the rails, if there’s an arch-enemy for sleep training, it is, without a doubt, the dreaded condition of overtiredness.

Kids, as with all people, have a natural rhythm when it comes to sleep. Our bodies secrete hormones to keep us up and running during the day, and different ones to help us rest at night. They’re dependant on a variety of factors, but timing is the most prevalent.

So what happens when your little one stays awake past the time when these natural cues to sleep are activated? Well, the body assumes there’s a reason that it hasn’t been allowed to get to sleep, assumes there’s a need to stay awake, and fires up those daytime hormones again.

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Have you ever heard the story of Catherine O’Leary’s Cow?

Back in 1871, the Chicago Tribune reported that the cause of the great Chicago Fire was a cow, Catherine O’Leary’s cow to be precise, kicking over a lantern in the barn while it was being milked.

Unfortunately, the Tribune admitted later on that it had completely fabricated the story, but that didn’t stop people from blaming Catherine and her cow from being widely blamed for one of the greatest disasters in US history.

What’s this got to do with teething, you ask?

Nothing really, except that they’re both victims of some unnecessary scapegoating.

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One of the most aggravating situations I see parents running into when they’re sleep training is the sudden onset of a minor illness when they’re finally seeing some progress.

After months of sleep issues, they finally decide to take the initiative and get serious about getting their baby onto a schedule, baby starts getting the hang of it, the whole family is starting to see longer periods of consolidated sleep, and everyone’s getting ready to break out the champagne…

And then BAM! Baby gets a cold, or an ear infection, or a bout of diarrhoea, or one of the other seven thousand illnesses that babies are prone to, and the whole thing goes off the rails.

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It’s taken you a few weeks to get your baby into a good schedule and sleeping well. Now that you’ve put in the time, effort, and energy to make this big change in your family’s life, that trip you have planned for next month is starting to stress you out! If you’re like most parents, your biggest fear is that a trip is going to derail all the progress you and your baby have made and cause you to start this process all over again. Sometimes the mere thought of it frightens parents so much that they cancel all summer trips and just vow to stay home until the child leaves for college. That is how important your baby’s new sleeping regime has become to everyone.

The good news is that you do not have to cancel all travel plans this summer and confine yourself to the house for the rest of your child’s life. It is possible to have children who travel really well, if you keep a few things in mind:

Don’t over-schedule

The biggest mistake parents make is that they over-schedule themselves. They try to pack in all the fun and adventure they might normally have had back in their “child-free” days, forgetting an important fact: They have a child now.

A nap in the car isn’t the end of the world

An occasional car nap or slightly later bedtime probably isn’t going to do too much harm, but if your baby spends a couple of days taking car seat naps here and there and having late bedtimes, she may become so overtired that by the time bedtime rolls around on day two, she has a complete meltdown and seems to “forget” all her sleep skills and just cries the house down.

You may start to give into this pressure and bend your expectations for your baby’s sleep. It’s easy to see how you could revert back to your own familiar ways in no time if you gave into this pressure and fear.

Keep to your routine as much as possible

It’s very normal for babies and toddlers to test the boundaries around sleep when they are somewhere new. Just because the rule is the rule at home, that does not necessarily mean the rule is the same at Grandma’s house. This may mean that your baby cries for some time at bedtime or has a night waking or two. The best way to handle it is to not do too much different than you would if the regression happened at home. You can go in every five minutes or so to offer a bit of reassurance, but other than that, don’t bend your rules. If you hang on tight to your consistency, within the first night or two, your child will be used to the new environment and will be sleeping well again.

Familiar items are always handy

Make sure you bring your child’s sleeping toy and/or blanket!

Bed sharing is probably the worst idea

Another big mistake parents make is to bed share with their baby or toddler while traveling. Bed sharing is a big no-no! Even it’s it is only for a few nights, if your baby decides this is her new preferred location, you could find yourself starting all over again when you get home. Most hotels have a cot you can use or rent or take your pack and play along and use that as a cot.

Try and put your baby in another room if possible

If your child is eight months or older, my advice is to try to make some sort of a private space for your baby to sleep. This could be the bathroom (if it’s big enough) or the closet. Anywhere that you can build some sort of a partition between you and your baby, so that if she has a wake up in the middle of the night she is not so excited to see her two favourite people that she ends up wide awake thinking it’s play time! Of course, getting an extra bedroom for your child is great if that’s an option for you.

Hot nights and sweaty sheets are no fun for little babies trying to get to sleep. While you can get up, strip off and reposition a fan to cool down, your baby can’t manage her temperature so easily.

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All parents need to know how to prepare baby for the clock change

On the 25th March 2018, clocks spring forward an hour which means it’s the start of Daylight Savings Time, which also means one hour less sleep for you (boo!) I think daylight savings wreaks havoc on our sleep schedules and can increase sleep debt in both children and adults. It can be kind of like the baby has jet lag. They may be harder to put down at bedtime or awake when they’re not supposed to be. We are already a sleep-deprived nation, so losing that extra hour only makes it worse (and more dangerous). Having a fussy infant on your hands is never any fun, but thankfully there are a few tricks to helping your little one adjust to the time change.

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