Clocks going back? What you really need to do

Forget impractical advice, we've got some tried and tested hacks to help your babies, toddlers and young children adapt to the time change

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Hurrah, says everyone – the clocks are going back. That means an EXTRA HOUR in bed! Except if you’re a parent of a small child, it doesn’t.

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While we all know that once a year, around the tail end of October, we’re allowed to put our clocks back an hour, that message doesn’t quite make it to babies, toddlers and young children.

What a surprise that they’re up at 5am on Sunday morning, rather than 6am – cos it’s really 6am.

Which is exactly what our mums and dads told us on Facebook…

“6mth old son was up for the day at 5.30!”

“Wouldn’t mind if it was the baby awake but he’s still snoring and it was my 5yo demanding I woke up and came downstairs at 6.45”

“I listened to my dd singing for the extra hour! LOL!”

“My kids thought they’d be clever and get up two hours earlier”

“Mummy fast asleep but Daddy up at 5!”

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So how do you slowly weave in the new time into the day? When should you do mealtimes? And if you’re living an hour later, how and when do you get to synchronise with your child?

Of course, there’s lots of advice on what you need to do, but just how helpful is it?

Start tweaking the clocks one week before. Really?!

This seems to have become parenting folklore – but does any parent really start changing routines a whole week before the clocks go back? If that’s you, we’d love to hear from you.

The theory is: 6 days before (eg Monday), you change your child’s routine by making it run 10 minutes later. The next day, you push it back another 10 mins, and so on. That means by Thursday you’re at 6.40pm, when the world is still at 6pm. By Sunday, the world catches up with you, and your child is none the wiser, contentedly settled into the routine.

But realistically, how does that play out? Can you really live in a parallel universe for a week? What happens if you’ve got to get a child to nursery or school (which aren’t playing your time game), or are taking your toddler to a class. It’s not possible to keep squeezing time.

So what’s a better plan – make bedtime an hour later on Saturday night?

No, this isn’t the answer, according to sleep advisor Katie Palmer, from Infant Sleep Consultant. “Your child is still likely to wake up at normal time on Sunday,” says Katie. It turns out our internal sleep clocks are pretty powerful.

Katie has what we think is a much more reasonable approach. “Accept that your child will probably wake up at the normal time but see if you can keep them in their cot or bed for 10 minutes or so longer.”

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Katie suggests that you should then try to adapt to the new time. Here at MFM, we think it’s going to be pretty hard keeping a ravenous toddler waiting for an extra hour for eggy soldiers or pasta shells. So we suggest you stagger the time change through the day. Why not add a couple of extra snacks and try…

  • Breakfast – 15 mins later
  • Lunch – 35 mins later
  • Tea – 60 mins later

“Meal times can help to set your body clock,” says Katie, so she suggests making mealtimes one of the key timing changes.

And then your final task is to see if you can move bedtime to an hour later, without a torrent of tired tears. Perhaps this is where an additional couple of Peppa Pig episodes can come in handy or some extra bedtime stories. See what you can do – if your baby or child can’t make the full extra hour, don’t push it.

The best thing is for your child to get a deep night’s sleep, so one last tip. Why not try the ‘Sleepy’ book – The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep – which all of our testers found helped to send their children to sleep.

Good luck and sleep well!

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