Babies and toddlers get tired very easily. An overtired baby will have a tough time falling asleep as well as staying awake. This leads to an uncomfortable circumstance for both the parent and the baby. Babies/toddlers show signs of tiredness by changes in their behavior, which we often miss. A cranky baby who is continuously wailing and is irritable may be dismissed as one demanding attention. However, these are the very signs that your baby is tired now and it’s time to reduce stimulation. Noticing those signs at the right time could make the situation better, for both you and your child.
It is easy to identify a tired baby using the symptoms they show, you just need to watch them carefully. For example, a happily playing child when suddenly turns cranky, irritated, and starts crying even when he is dry and well-fed is often the cue that he needs to rest. . It is always important to keep watching for cues of a tired baby to ensure they get optimum rest and sleep- two very important factors for their growth and development.
Let us discuss in detail the cues of a tired baby and the other signs you need to be aware of.
Getting a tired baby to sleep could be one of the difficult hurdles that you can face as a parent. The more you keep trying to convince a tired baby, the more inconvenience they exhibit. It is easy for babies to go from tired to overtired in a very short period. Missing this small window could make the situation worse as it becomes harder to settle a tired baby.
Related Reading: 9 Reasons You Feel Your Baby Is Always Hungry (0-1 Years)
Recognizing when your baby is tired is an essential skill. You need to stop whatever you are doing and get the baby straight to bed before they become super tired. Also, it is common and easy to get confused about whether your baby is hungry or tired. The cues shown by the baby could also be signs the baby is tired, not hungry.
An unsettled baby is a tired baby. Especially, if your baby is a newborn and if you are going to keep offering him/her more feed, it is only going to make them even tired, thus as parent you should be watching out for signs that you are not overfeeding your baby.
Listed below are the cues of a tired baby which could help you identify if the baby needs to sleep or if the baby needs rest.
One of the common cues of a tired baby is yawning. Like any other person, your baby becomes tired and yawns when he/she is ready for sleep. Sometimes, parents are surprised to see their newborns yawn. The best way is to put the baby to sleep before the third yawn and before the baby becomes too tired.
Babies use their hands to communicate what they need at a very young age. Another common baby cue for tiredness is the baby rubbing of eyes, eyebrows, or head. Pulling of ears is also another common sign of a tired baby. When the baby rubs the top part of his/her head it indicates the baby is already sleepy. It is advised to note the baby’s hand movements during playtime and time before their nap to know about their sleep cues.
It is vital to keep noting the facial expressions of your baby. When the baby becomes sleepy or tired, their facial expression differs from being active to being drowsy. Once you note a change in the face from happiness to grumpiness, it is one of the cues of a tired baby.
Related Reading: When Can A Baby Sleep With A Pillow?
When you notice the baby giving blank stares by looking at a distance and not looking at you, it is an indication that the baby is tired. Other signs include not giving proper eye contact or closing eyes and showing signs of drowsiness when you try to interact or play with the baby. If your baby gives a glazed look as well as their eyes aren’t following motions, it is time you take them to bed.
One of the biggest cues of a tired baby is that they start to become clingier than normal which indicates they are tired. Clingy behavior can be displayed in numerous ways and it could vary from one baby to another. The baby may cry for the parents to lift and hold them or may subside their cry only if being rocked. Being clingy and requiring a soothing action is a cue of a tired baby.
Whatever be the age of the child, if you find them cranky and crying for no reason, it is an indication that they are tired. We can relate this to ourselves where we become grumpy when our sleep or rest time is compromised. Babies get tired easily and become cranky when they need sleep. Crying or general fussiness is one of the cues of a tired baby.
Related Reading: Baby Cries After Feeding- 8 Reasons And 6 Ways To Deal With It
When babies start feeling tired, they start losing control over their body muscles that leads to jerks in their body motions. This is typically found in the arms and legs. When you notice these signs in your baby, it is time you take them for a nap.
Tired babies easily start losing interest in what is happening around them. Instead of watching what is happening or noticing people conversing in the room, the baby might slump or act disinterested in their surroundings. They could even converse less than normal.
Newborns can get easily tired, say within 1-1 ½ hour after they wake up. That is when they start showing cues of a tired baby. On the other hand, few babies can even play for two hours happily.
You can watch out for the below cues of a tired baby in a newborn.
- Pulling of ears
- Fluttering eyelids or difficulty focusing
- Arching backward
- Looking worried
- Sucking on fingers
For 3-6 months: your baby can become tired after 1½-3 hours after waking up.
At 6-12 months: your baby can become tired after 2-3 hours of waking up.
At 12-18 months: your child can become tired if they skip their morning or afternoon sleep.
Other cues of a tired baby include:
- Attention Seeking
- Easily Bored
- Disinterest In Food
Related Reading: Is Your Toddler Hitting Himself? Then Here’s What You Need To Know
Babies need to be given ample time to sleep to avoid them becoming fussy or tired. It is better to keep watching for the signals of a tired baby before they could turn to overtired.
The key is to know the signs of a tired baby just before baby gets overtired. Watch out for any sleep cues as discussed above, which your baby might indicate when he/she is tired. Respond promptly by taking the baby for a nap or bedtime before they could get overtired.
Following a consistent bedtime routine helps the baby transit from awake time to sleep time. Some babies may need a nap every few hours while some may need it twice a day. It will also depend on the age. Once you zero out on a routine, follow it to the T because deviation will will disturb the cycle and you will have a tired baby who is cranky and demanding on your hands.
When you prepare a bedtime routine for toddlers, try to reduce any stimulating activities and take them 30 minutes early to bed allowing them to settle. This is also on the list of tips to prepare your child for preschool.
Avoiding stimulation indicates avoiding activities that could trigger or make the baby stay awake for a longer period. This is the one of the reasons to keep smartphones away from children. Do not let the baby watch TV for long. Turn down on bright lights. If its day time, draw out the curtains. Cut on the noise. Basically, ensure the environment is conducive to sleep. Cut down stimulating activities and let the baby stay in a dark/quieter place half-hour before their bedtime.
Babies can easily become tired if they are awake for a long time or get stimulated for too long. The best way to prevent this is to watch out for cues of a tired baby and take them to rest as and when they exhibit any sign of tiredness.
Taking the baby to bed in a correct and consistent time is a great and natural way to prevent the baby from becoming tired. Start by observing the baby’s sleep patterns and time of their naps each day — both day and nighttime naps.
The baby would be sleeping most of their time until the sixth month. Hence it won’t be a problem till that period. However, it is recommended that you follow a sleep schedule right from their sixth month if they don’t sleep or wake up too early.
Once you establish a routine, you will be aware of their sleep cues when their naptime/bedtime comes close with which you can put them to sleep before they become very tired.
Related Reading: 8 Indian Home Remedies For Baby Sleep
Sleep is a critical time for the body to restore and strengthen tissues and muscles. Every baby is unique and so is their sleep schedule. By providing your baby with an opportunity to sleep at the right time, you give them contentment. Though the challenge lies in putting them to sleep at the right time, taking them to bed ahead of their sleep time will only upset them more.
Similarly, if the cues of a tired baby are misinterpreted with hunger, fatigue, or boredom, and the sleep time is delayed, it is only going to make the baby even more tired, making it hard to put them to sleep. Hence, it is important to know how babies of different ages behave when tired, and how long they can comfortably tolerate being awake.
Identifying cues of a tired baby could help you to gain experience in guessing your child’s sleep time as well as your confidence in identifying when your baby needs to sleep.