“When you or your baby becomes overtired, the body is stressed. Chemical changes then occur to fight the fatigue, and this interferes with the ability to easily fall asleep and stay asleep—that is, the baby gets a second wind.” – Marc Weissbluth
The words ‘sleepless’ and ‘new-mom’ almost go hand-in-hand. And that’s a concern. Because if we (mothers) are sleep deprived, chances are, our babies will battle to fall asleep and sleep shorter periods. As a result, they can struggle during waking hours due to lack of sleep.
Sometimes without realizing, we overlook the signs that lead to a tired, cranky baby who struggles to calmly fall asleep, instead he screams even when held and just can’t seem to settle peacefully.
We try everything, peaceful music, dim lighting, swaddle sleep sacks, holding, rocking, feeding… and yet he just seems to become more awake and more upset, instead of falling asleep. We can tell that he is after all tired and ready for a nap, so why won’t he just fall asleep?
The one thing about baby sleep that we ought to know and train ourselves on is making sure we know when our baby’s sleep time is approaching. We should be well prepared to catch our baby before the tears start and before signs of exhaustion creep in. This way, we are setting ourselves up for a happier, longer sleeping baby who has fallen asleep without complaint or resistance.
Why won’t my baby fall asleep when tired?
- When your baby has already reached the point of overtiredness he struggles to relax and sleep. This is like us adults when we struggle to switch off despite being exhausted.
- Your baby’s stress response system is activated when overtired, filling your baby with stress hormones.
- If our babies are wired before sleep, they will take longer to drift out calmly. Remember: a newborn will be overtired if they are awake for longer than 45 minutes to an hour in one stretch, and a 6-month-old if they are awake for more than a 2-hour stretch.
What are the common signs of a tired baby?
· Your baby will take his gaze away from any stimulation.
· Your baby may yawn, hiccup or sneeze before becoming too tired.
· Your baby may show signs that he wants to be held despite being content a few minutes earlier.
· Your baby will rub eyes and touch her face.
· You may notice character changes as he becomes tired, such as movement and agitation.
Tell me, how do I get my overtired baby to sleep?
- A swaddle sleep sack will promote longer baby sleep.
- Feed your baby until he is feeling calmer and drifting off.
- Play white noise for babies and rock your baby to sleep if he is overtired.
- Go for a walk with your baby around the block, you will feel calmer and your baby will often fall asleep from the movement. Use a swaddle sleep sack that is easily adaptable for home and stroller to limit the chances of waking your baby when you arrive home.
- Wear your baby in a wrap or baby carrier. Just by being close to you, your baby should settle quickly, after which you can transfer him to his crib.
Benefits of getting your baby to sleep before he gets too tired
- He will sleep for longer periods of time as he is calm and peaceful before falling asleep.
- He will associate sleep as something positive if you set up a nice routine with his swaddle sleep sack before he gets overtired.
- His overall levels of happiness will increase, and his stress hormones will be reduced.
- Catching your baby before he gets too tired, will achieve a gentle sleep solution that will aid his fundamental brain development and growth.
And most importantly, a baby ‘who is not overtired will settle much easier and have better nights as well’.
It is beneficial for you and your baby to have a gentle baby sleep routine that starts before your baby becomes overtired. This way he will sleep for longer periods of time and decrease the chances of waking frequently. Meaning, that you will also gain more “you” time to enjoy in-between snoozes.