When your baby is red-faced, frantically screaming and pumping fists in the air, it usually means one of two things: Either your baby is super hungry or extremely tired. Dealing with hunger is pretty simple. But trying to put a worked-up baby to sleep is a nightmare.
You rock. You sway. You jiggle. You walk around. You hold the baby this way, then that way. You sing lullabies and make shushing sounds. And when your baby finally crashes, you do too. Because dealing with an overtired baby is exhausting.
But you can avoid those baby meltdowns.
Initially, newborns seem to sleep all the time. But as the days go on, your baby will start being alert for a few hours at a time. Here’s the weird thing: Most babies can’t handle being awake for too long. According to Dr. Marc Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (a must-have book for any new mom!), all babies get drowsy after one or two hours of being awake.
Catching signs that my second child was getting tired and soothing her to sleep was the key to avoiding the major-drama baby breakdowns she was having. After changing her diaper and feeding her – something that took about an hour – she would be a complete angel baby. For about 45 minutes.
Then she’d start to fuss and quickly escalate into all-out screaming. (I don’t have to tell you how panicky that can make you feel as a parent!) But once I got the hang of knowing when she was tired, I was able to get her snoozing in no time with far less effort.
Signs Your Baby is Tired
The trick to avoiding fits of tired crying is helping your little one peacefully drift off before she starts to fret. Signs of tiredness are subtle and appear before fussing begins. You have to keep an eye out to catch these signals:
- Reduced movement and activity: As your child becomes sleepy, you might notice him moving less and becoming quieter (read: no more squirming or babbling).
- Less interaction: Your child isn’t interested in her surroundings or engaging with you and others. Trying to get your baby to smile back at you? It’s just not happening.
- Zoning out: Like adults, kids start mentally checking out when they’re tired. Your little one will seem to stare off into the distance without really focusing on anything. You might even see his eyelids start to droop.
- Yawning: This is a sure sign that your little one needs some soothing ASAP.
- Weaker sucking: If you’re feeding your child and notice sucking is slowing down and becoming weaker, that’s a cue that it’s time for sleep.
- Agitation: When your baby begins tugging her ears, rubbing her eyes or pulling at her head, these are cues that she’s about to start fussing. You are now entering the overtired zone.
- Watch the clock: Be sure to check your child for signs of sleepiness after your child has been up for an hour or going on two hours.
Good sleep is essential for your child’s physical and mental well-being, and it does amazing things for you, too. Getting your child to sleep more benefits the whole family.
Once you learn your baby’s sleep signals (and about how much wakefulness he can tolerate), your baby will do less screaming and more smiling. And that’s something that makes everyone happier.