As a first-time mom, I didn’t know the difference between a tired baby and an overtired baby. I certainly didn’t realize that once your baby got to the overtired stage, it would be much more challenging to get them to sleep.
If your baby is frequently in the overtired stage, it can become a cycle that you need to break. Luckily, there are things you can do that will help your baby get on the right track!
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. To find out more, you can read my disclaimer here.
Signs Of A Tired Baby
Before we talk about signs that your baby is overtired, it’s critical to know the signs that your baby is starting to get sleepy. When you know these tired signs, you can quickly tell when your baby is ready to go to sleep. These signs are:
- Pulling at their ears/ touching their face
- Rubbing their eyes
- Becoming clingy
- Zoning out during activities/being less engaged
Once you see any of these signs, it’s a good indicator that nap or bedtime is near!
Signs Of An Overtired Baby
Now that you know how to spot a tired baby, it’s also imperative to know the signs that your baby is becoming overtired. Those signs are:
Baby Is Past Their Wake Window
Babies can only stay awake for so long, especially newborns. The Bump has an excellent guideline for how long your baby should be awake in between naps which states:
Newborn wake window: 60 to 90 minutes
4 to 6-month-old wake window: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
7 to 9-month-old wake window: 2 to 3.5 hours
10 to 12-month-old wake window: 2.5 to 4 hours
Now, keep in mind that these are just suggestions. Your baby might be able to stay awake longer than the maximum times listed happily! On the other hand, your baby might need a nap sooner than the minimum suggested time.
With that being said, if your baby has been up for 3 hours, and the maximum time on their wake window is only an hour and a half, they are definitely in the overtired stage.
Hard Time Getting To Sleep
I knew my son was overtired when it was more difficult than usual to get him to fall asleep. He would fight so hard when it came time for naps or bedtime!
Doesn’t Stay Asleep For Long
Have you had moments where you finally got your baby to sleep, only for them to wake up 15 minutes later? Yep, they were most likely overtired.
When your baby has been awake for too long, their body activates a stress response, which makes it harder for your baby to calm enough to get the sleep they need.
In addition to waking after a short time, your baby also might have rough nights. Frequent wakings and struggling to go back to sleep can all be caused by being overtired.
Fussiness and Crying
Fussiness and crying is a prevalent sign of being overtired. Now, your baby crying is a fundamental way of communicating with you, but if they are awake past their window, it’s likely because they need sleep.
Difficult To Calm Baby Down
As we talked about above, an overtired baby will be fussing and most likely crying. Because they are overtired, it will be more challenging to get them to calm down.
Falls Asleep Outside Of Nap And Bedtimes
If your baby is falling asleep outside of their regular sleep times, this is a perfect indicator that they are overtired.
For example, if your baby is falling asleep in their high chair or playing on the floor, you might want to think about moving their nap/bedtime up a little.
Baby Gets A Second Wind
If your baby is acting pretty tired, and then all of a sudden, they have a renewed amount of energy, they have gotten a second wind.
This ‘second wind’ is also caused by your baby’s stress response and the involved hormones.
How To Prevent Baby From Getting Overtired
Now that you know the signs of a tired baby, and consequently, an overtired baby, you might be wondering how to prevent this cycle from happening. Here are my top five tips:
Watch For Wake Windows
Make a note of when your baby woke up and what time their max wake window period would be. This can help you remember when it’s getting close to nap/bedtime.
Watch For Sleep Cues
Watching for your baby’s sleep cues is such an important step to take. If you aren’t sure what your baby’s sleep cues are, it’s a great idea to write down what you notice over a couple of days. It’s also a great idea to include the times that you see the cues!
By tracking what cues your baby uses when they are getting sleepy and at what time, you will be able to identify them quickly. This will help you decide if you need to adjust your baby’s sleep times or not.
Implement A Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine is a great tool when it comes time for your little one to go to sleep. And the great news is, it’s never too early to start one!
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to bedtime routines is to stay consistent! Bedtime routines help your baby know what to expect at nap or bedtime, and they will start to find comfort in the routine.
Changing the routine can throw your baby off track, and they will know that something isn’t right.
Now, let’s say you realize your baby is quickly approaching the overtired phase. That doesn’t mean you have to skip their routine! The best idea is to speed the process up a bit. If reading books is a part of your baby’s routine, read one instead of three.
This way, your baby will still know what to expect, and they will see that it’s time for sleep.
Calming Activities Before Nap/Bed
Always keep in mind what activities your child is doing before it is time to go to sleep.
For example, if you have a bouncer, that probably isn’t the best thing for your baby to do before a nap.
Stick to calm and quiet activities before sleep times, and if possible, dim the room a little.
Avoiding overstimulation is crucial throughout the whole day, as it can lead to a fussy baby. But it’s essential before a nap or bedtime.
To avoid overstimulation, you will want to steer clear of loud, bright, and flashy toys for long periods.
- The Ultimate Guide For Dropping the Swaddle
- How To Stop Baby From Chewing on the Crib
- Crucial Tips for Going Shopping With a Baby
- How To Keep Baby (Safely) Warm in a Car Seat
- The Best Tips for Fixing Newborn Day-Night Confusion
How To Get An Overtired Baby To Sleep
Once your baby has become overtired, it can be more difficult to get them to fall asleep. Use the following tips to help your little one sleep:
Don’t Skip Routine!
As I mentioned earlier, once you implement a routine, try not to skip it! It’s best to shorten the routine while still including each step that your baby expects.
Use A Swaddle
If your baby isn’t rolling over yet, swaddling is a great thing to try if you aren’t using one already. These ones were our favorite because they use velcro to help stick together.
You’ll also love: What To Do When Your Baby Hates the Swaddle
Grab The Pacifier
Like the swaddle, if your baby uses a pacifier, now’s the time to grab it. These pacifier holders can be great tools to help keep the paci in your baby’s mouth if it falls out frequently.
White noise is very calming to many babies, and it can help block outside noises from disturbing your baby.
We use the Hatch sound machine, and it’s terrific! There are many options to choose from, whether it’s different sounds or even different night light colors.
Make The Room Dark
Especially when your baby is overtired, it’s best to make the room as dark as possible. Blackout curtains will help ensure that nothing in the room distracts your baby, and it can help them realize it’s time to sleep.
Hold Them Tightly And Rock Or Bounce
If you typically lay your baby down sleepy but awake for a nap or bedtime, there’s a good chance that won’t work when your baby is overtired.
Try to hold your baby tightly and bounce or slowly walk around the room. If they don’t like those options, you can try to rock in a rocking chair.
Whatever you choose, your baby will ultimately find comfort by having you holding them, and it can help to calm them down.
Offer Breast Or Bottle
Many babies find breastfeeding or drinking a bottle soothing. If your baby is really struggling, it’s a great option to try!
If you are using a swaddle, I would recommend you keep your baby swaddled while feeding. Staying swaddled will help continue to calm your baby.
If you are caught in the cycle of your baby getting overtired, it can be hard on everyone. If you have tried all of the suggestions in this post and are still having a hard time, it’s always worth a call to your baby’s doctor.
Before you go, check out these related articles:
- The Only Teething Remedies You Need
- Newborn Essentials For The First Three Months
- The Best Board Books For Babies And Toddlers
- Developmental Activities For 3-Month-Olds
- Easy Ways To Calm Your Baby During Bath
What tips worked the best for your overtired baby? I would love to know in the comments below!