The joy of becoming a parent, even when it’s not your first time, is something that can transcend any other experience in your life, but that ecstatic sensation can somewhat be countered by the initial complexities of looking after your little one.
One thing any prospective parent knows long before they welcome a little one into their family is the very likely possibility that sleep will be interrupted and disrupted, at least initially.
It’s something we learn from popular culture, any TV show or film that’s ever dealt with parenthood, and indeed friends and family who have made a point of letting you know that this is on the horizon for you.
Obviously, there are varying degrees as to how much your sleep patterns will be altered, and just how your baby adapts to their first few months and early years in this world is unpredictable.
On the whole, we learn to adapt to the new ‘normal,’ and obviously, what you want, above all else, is for your child to happily get the rest that they require as they grow.
How to Spot When Your Baby is Overtired
Sometimes it’s pretty clear that your baby is drifting towards sleep or is overly tired, this might be self-evident, but if not, there are a number of common signs that your child is overtired.
Your baby may tend to pull their ears when they are overly tired and can become even more clingy than usual. Rubbing eyes is another sign, and babies can sometimes tend to zone out and find it hard to focus on things when tiredness kicks in.
They can also tend to be less social and may start to get very cranky if they are not then put in bed.
Additionally, on some occasions, a baby may become overly active, in other words, very engaged and frantic, even though it’s very late; this can sometimes be read as your child being ready to play but is, in fact, overcompensating.
Overtired Baby – Why Your Baby Can’t Sleep
If you have an overtired baby, they can get visibly more and more stressed at their inability to sleep, and this can lead to a number of resultant issues. These include difficulty in calming them, excessive yawning, crying, and overactivity.
When your baby is getting a little older, their reaction and behavior as a result of overtiredness can take on epic proportions, and you may well have to deal with a full-on meltdown, all of which is not unexpected.
There are ways to cope with the situation, both in terms of getting ahead of the potential problem as well as dealing with any speed bumps that appear on the horizon.
How to Help Your Baby to Sleep
If your baby is experiencing bouts of overtiredness, there are a number of tricks and activities that can help get them back to sleep.
Swaddling your baby is a good starting point but is less relevant once your baby is old enough to roll. That sense of being tightly swaddled helps to calm babies and should ease them into sleep.
Do so while holding them against you, as this connection will help to calm them and ease them to sleep.
You might also consider giving your baby a bottle as this will make them tired, and then gently rocking them back and forth will also help to soothe them to sleep.
Potential Vicious Circle
Overtiredness can sometimes become something of a vicious circle. If your baby has an intermittent sleep, this can result in a cranky baby for much of the day; you might then offer them a nap or two during the day, above and beyond what they may usually experience; this can then mean they are less prepared and ready for a night’s sleep and the situation continues.
How Much Sleep Should Your Baby Be Getting?
There are, of course, no stone-cold absolutes here, but below is a rough idea of how much sleep your baby should get per day.
- One Month – 14-17 hours a day
- Two Months – 12-16 hours a day
- Three Months – 10 hours a night, a nap or two during the day
- Four Months – 12-15 hours a day
- Six Months+ – 9-11 hours a night plus two naps during the day
Make the Room Conducive to Sleep
This should be a given, but in case it’s not, here are some tips to make your baby’s room more amenable to a calming night’s sleep.
Dim the lights, and play soft, repeating, soothing music (after a while, you’ll learn which particular types they prefer best). A white noise machine can also be of assistance, as is a light massage.
Reading to your baby, or just quietly communicating with them, will make them feel at ease, and having a set routine that plays out prior to bedtime will help your baby to understand and digest the queues that lead them to realize that sleep is on its way.
Avoid overstimulation prior to bed; this is where mealtime comes in as a nice buffer.
In other words, let them play, then bathe and feed, giving you a decent period of time since they were seriously active, therefore making them more amenable to sleep.
Try not to panic or chastise yourself if your baby gets overtired. The key is to keep things calm and relaxed in the home so as to encourage your child to get the sleep they need to function and grow.
It’s worth noting that issues with overtired babies are usually very short-lived and part and parcel of raising a healthy and contented child.