Baby sleep problems are one of the hottest topics among moms of small children. You’re a tired mom, and when you don’t get enough sleep you’re an angry mom. Not to mention how your poor baby is suffering.
Little babies are born doing nothing but sleeping, eating, and needing diaper changes.
After the initial postpartum recovery, it’s no big deal to go out and about since the baby will probably fall asleep in the stroller or car seat anyway. And so, you carry on as is.
And so you run errands.
Go to the park.
Go to the mall.
Bring the baby to the cafe.
And bible studies.
And soon you realize, the baby only sleeps in the stroller. Baby screams when you try to put her down to sleep in her crib.
Baby is tired, fussy, and whiny and you aren’t sure why. You thought that the more exercise or activity a baby gets, the more tired they will be, and, therefore, the better they will sleep.
➡️ The idea that wearing a baby out will help them sleep better is one of the biggest baby sleep myths.
Learn how to space naps, how many a day per age, best times, etc. and get your nap game ON!
Wearing baby out doesn’t work…
In fact, wearing a baby out will make them sleep worse. The more tired babies are, the worse they sleep. The more tired they are, the harder it is to fall asleep.
Then, the more tired they get, the more they fight sleep. An overtired baby wakes up frequently through the night as they transition sleep cycle because they are uncomfortable.
So how do you know if your baby is sort of… worn out and overtired all the time?
Common symptoms of an overtired baby:
- Frequent fussiness
- Sleeps very little during the day and has short naps
- Fights going to sleep
- Gets progressively fussier as the day goes on
- Gets startled easily by things in its environment that bring it to tears
- Frequently falls asleep at the breast, in the stroller or the car seat (after the first few months in which case this is very normal)
- Finds getting to sleep difficult and wakes easily
- Acts ready for bed at 5:30 or 6:00 pm
- Wakes near midnight crying in an inconsolable manner
While you’re working on keeping baby from being overtired, you can use our daily baby logs to track what’s happening.
Create sustainable sleep habits for your little lamb so the whole family can sleep peacefully without the stress, drama, and tears.Learn More
How to help an overtired baby to sleep (and avoid over stimulation)
While you can’t avoid stimulating environments or tiredness completely, here’s how you can help prevent overtiredness.
Even if your environment is calming, babies will become overstimulated if they are overtired. So the key is to keep them well-rested.
Keeping a good routine prevents a baby from being overtired
Well-rested babies can cope with a late bedtime, a missed nap, or an overstimulating morning without becoming super fussy or irritable. After vacations or major routine deviations, babies are more fussy.
Avoid screens and chaos right before bed
Avoid screentime for babies and early toddlers.
However, if you do allow screentime, don’t do it immediately before bedtime. This overstimulates baby and the wind-down process is longer and more difficult.
If they are watching something, 20 to 30 minutes before bed, either turn off the screen or remove them from the area so they can begin releasing the happy sleep hormone.
Have a good wind down routine in place
An essential part of the bedtime routine is the wind-down time. This is where you incorporate time into your routine that is just for getting calm.
This can include singing, rocking until drowsy (not until asleep if you want them to fall asleep on their own), reading a book, and sitting and cuddling in a dimmed room.
You’ll want to do a good part of the wind-down routine in your baby’s room, away from loud siblings or other disturbances. Turn on the white noise so they aren’t disturbed by toddler squeals, and then put the baby to bed.
These lovely cards and checklists will help you create and keep healthy wind down and sleep routines for your little ones.Learn More
Move up bed or naptime
Since we realize it’s a myth that wearing your baby out allows them to sleep better, the best way to help an overtired baby is to put them to sleep earlier.
If bedtime is normally at 8:00 pm but they are always Past the Point then, move bedtime up earlier. We wrongly assume putting them down earlier means they’ll wake earlier, but if they’re overtired the opposite is true.
Sleep begets sleep.
The more restorative sleep they have the more they will sleep.
Here’s a handy dandy list of 28 things to try so baby will stop fighting sleep and sleep longer and later.
Guard babies’ sleep to prevent overtiredness
This is a big one. I often see mothers out and about with their babies who are fussy. Now, babies get fussy and this is life.
But, if you’re having to pull out all the tricks to get them to sleep every day, and are standing around with blankets over your baby rocking them just so they get some shut-eye, they are overtired or have a sleep prop.
Your baby needs, at least, one consistent nap a day, preferably more if they are still very small. It’s a very short season and teaching them to sleep early on will benefit them throughout their early years.
Guard their naps by staying home when they are tired, putting them to bed early even if it means taking a few minutes out of family time, or by declining an invitation that comes on the heels of two or three more that week.
Avoiding Overtiredness Recap
- If baby is overtired, move nap time up so that baby will get get a chance to go to sleep before becoming more overtired.
- When baby hasn’t napped well during the day, do a good wind down routine, then move your baby’s bedtime up 30 minutes or even an hour.
- If you know baby doesn’t nap well in the stroller when you are out doing errands, time the outing so that when you get back to the house baby will be able to take a good nap.
- Babies will fight sleep a lot more if they are super tired. They’ll even wake up around 11 or 11:30 p.m. at night (happened with all my babies!) if they’re exhausted. They may not want to feed, they are simply over-stimulated and having trouble getting back to sleep.
- If your baby wakes at night and is over-stimulated, but not wanting food, you can do the Outdoor Trick. My husband would often take the babies outside and the cool night air would often soothe them. This would allow them to fall back asleep.
- If you notice baby is in an overtired pattern, try staying home for a few days if you can to help baby settle.
Ready for everyone to start sleeping better? Use this checklist to help you get there.
You can do it, mama!