Tired signs are confusing!
New-born babies display very distinctive tired signs when you know what to look for, and it’s important to learn these signs as every new parent quickly learns, an over tired baby is one who cries rather than sleeps.
In the very early days (1-2 weeks old) you can literally feed your baby, burp and change them and they will be ready to sleep again. But as the weeks move on your routine might become more feed – play sleep, it is during this “play” that we are looking for tired signs.
There is a fine line between early tired signs and late tired signs, we try to catch a new-born at the early tired sign, take them to their bassinet and settle them quickly off to sleep.
Waiting for a late tired sign like yawning can actually mean you have already missed the wave of sleepiness which washes over your baby, and they are now beginning to develop a second wind which will mean they fight going to sleep, fight the swaddle, and they cry and are difficult to get drowsy again.
Early signs that this wave of sleepiness is beginning to build include decreased activity and slower motions.
Your baby might have been busy trying to hit a toy on her play gym when suddenly she slows down, and does this less.
This is an early sign your baby is getting tired, wait another 10 minutes and she will start to show increased activity; hitting that toy more and more and appear baby hyper.
This is a clear sign she is now over tired and needed to be in bed 10 minutes ago.
If you are still feeding your baby, her sucking might become weaker, or if you having cuddles she might become quiet and calm or burrow into you, that baby babble stops.
These too are early tired signs, and a good indicator you should start heading towards swaddling and settling to sleep. If you miss these signs and your baby is now chatting very loudly or becoming grizzly or even crying, these are very late tired signs.
A lot of new mum’s enjoy it when their baby becomes excessively “chatty” or animated, but this is often a late tired sign missed by those who don’t know.
Babies also start to lose interest in their surroundings when they are tired, they might no longer make eye contact with you, or stop looking at their toy.
They are losing the ability to concentrate just like you and I when we are tired. This can be an easy one to miss if your visitors are playing pass the baby after a feed, and she will be likely to get tired sooner as she tried to learn everybody’s new face and take in a lot of new information.
They can also get droopy eyes or red eye brows, which is a big tell-tale sign for a lot of parents once they spot it.
The main signs new mums are generally looking for is yawning and eye rubbing, these two signs are generally late tired signs, and often new babies can’t rub their eyes for a good 8-12 weeks, they just don’t have the co-ordination.
Yawning is a good indicator your baby is tired once they are 4 months +, but then once they get mobile we get into the tricky situation where they might be out of sight when that first yawn appears and by the time you see the yawn, they are grumpy and over tired, you missed the first 3 yawns as they were rolling under the table.
The solution to this is a combination of clock watching and baby watching. If you haven’t seen any tired signs in your baby under 12 weeks old, and they have been awake for 1.5 hour’s I suggest you start your wind down ritual regardless and get them ready for bed.
There is a good chance you missed the sign you are looking for and they are getting over tired.
If your baby is between 3-6 months old and you haven’t seen a yawn or any of the early tired signs and they have been awake for 2 hours + it’s time to begin their sleep routine.
If your baby is waking up crying after 20-40 minutes and is noticeably upset this too is a sign you have missed their tired signs and they have gone to bed over tired.
As your baby gets older the switch from early tired to late tired is faster and more dramatic, older children show late tired signs like refusing to eat their solids, or breastfeed/bottle-fed well.
If they are crawling or even walking they will become clumsy and fall over more frequently.
Once they are toddlers and you let them skip a nap or stay up late they quickly move through hyperactivity and deliriously happy to tantrum mode in lightning speed.
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Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.