Do you want to know how to get an overtired baby to sleep? Learn the reasons your baby may be fighting sleep, the signs of an overtired baby and how to getting them to settle in for some rest anyway.
Remember that blissful newborn era? The one where soft sighs drifted from the bassinet and sleep danced effortlessly through the night?
Ah, those fleeting moments can vanish fast when an overtired tornado erupts at bedtime.
We’ve all been there, mama, clinging to sanity by a thread as our precious bundles morph into tiny, squirming cyclones of frustration. But fear not, weary warrior! Tonight, we turn the tide on bedtime battles and reclaim your nights (and your sanity) with a tactical guide teaching you how to get an overtired baby to sleep.
Why Is My Baby Fighting Sleep?
Before we unleash our arsenal of calming techniques, let’s decipher the enemy’s code.
Babies fight sleep for countless reasons – from sensory overload to teething terrors. Overstimulation can turn their tiny brains into pinball machines, bouncing with agitation from flashing lights to boisterous play. Schedule shifts and separation anxiety can disrupt their internal rhythms, while hidden monsters like teething pains lurk beneath the surface, fueling the nighttime drama.
Remembering back when my big kids were babes, bedtime, for me, was the most stressful part of the day. Not only was I exhausted, but I knew that bedtime would bring tears, for both of us.
We had a bedtime routine that we steadily followed each night. It consisted of a warm, lavender bath, massage, dry diaper/clean pajamas, and a bedtime feeding in a dimly lit bedroom.
Yet, there were still tears of resistance anytime we tried to lay our baby down, awake or half-asleep. And one of the hardest things for me as a mama was trying to figure out why my overtired baby was fighting their sleep.
Here are some common reasons why:
Babies can be overstimulated through excessive play, through an environment where loud noises and bright lights are present, and through a high level of human communication and interaction, beyond what they are used to.
Change in Schedule/Overtired
Have you recently changed baby’s nap schedule? As your baby adjusts to a new normal, this may disrupt their body’s natural sleep schedule.
Mama, you are your baby’s favorite person in the whole wide world! Babies commonly go through phases (and even sleep regressions) where they will just want to be with and near you.
In an article by Colleen de Bellefonds at What to Expect, babies generally begin teething around 6 months old. Some symptoms (drooling, crying, and irritability, to name a few) begin a few months before your baby’s pearly whites poke through!
Your baby may be experiencing a growth spurt that requires more frequent feedings. (Which is great for them – more food! But most likely a little disheartening for you – less sleep.)
5 Signs Your Baby is Overtired
Your mama’s intuition may have clued you in already that your baby is overtired. But if it hasn’t – because lack of sleep fatigue is a real thing – here are five signs that your baby is overtired:
Your babe is cranky, and not even their favorite toy, pacifier, or even their favorite person – you! – can soothe them.
Rubbing Eyes, Ears, and Head
Baby’s little hands are rubbing their eyes, ears, and head – and while these things can melt our hearts, it is a sign that he is VERY tired.
Lack of Interest
The things that previously kept your baby engaged – a toy, a song, or a game – are not keeping her attention. She may look away or fall asleep.
Your baby may not want to play on the floor, be in a bouncy seat, or be held by anyone else. It is common for overtired babies to cling to their caregiver.
Smaller Naps During the Day
You may notice that your baby is taking smaller cat naps outside of their normal nap times. These naps can occur anywhere – in the stroller, feeding chair, or in mid-play.
Will an Overtired Baby Eventually Sleep?
Sleep Tight Consultants share that when your little one is overtired, it is harder for them to transition into their normal sleep cycles, and it is common for them to have trouble staying asleep.
The good news is that ultimately, your baby will fall asleep. (It may just take a little bit of time, grit, and tears.)
You see that your baby is showing signs that they are exhausted. So, let’s look at some ways of how to get an overtired baby to sleep.
How to Get an Overtired Baby to Sleep
While there is no exact formula or blueprint to assure that your baby falls asleep right away, these are four common ways to help get your baby to sleep:
Breastfeed or Give a Bottle
Sometimes snuggling up for a warm bottle or a breastfeeding session is the perfect way to soothe an overtired baby.
Over at Kelly Mom in their article about Comfort Nursing, they explain “[s]ucking releases the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) in both mother and baby, which results in a sleepy feeling (Uvnäs-Moberg et al, 1993).”
Babies feel safe and comforted when they are swaddled because it reminds them of the time spent in your womb, a place of safety. Because all babies have the startle reflex, make sure you prevent loose arms and legs from waking him by swaddling with a blanket or a swaddle sack.
Keep a Routine
Bedtime routines such as bath time, massage, and bedtime feeding remind baby that it is almost time to settle down for sleep. Your routine should be consistent and in an order that works for you and your baby!
Create a Bedtime Environment
Bedtime environments with dimmed lights and white noise promote a calming atmosphere when laying your little one down. As a part of your bedtime routine, it will remind your babe that it is almost time for sleep!
Learn Your Baby’s Tiredness Cues
I would encourage you to keep a journal of the times when your baby displays signs of being overtired. With this information, you can re-create nap schedules and bedtime routines. If your babe is showing signs of being overtired, consider laying them down for a nap or early bedtime.
Mama, the night battles with an overtired warrior can feel endless. But remember, you’re not alone in this fight! We’ve all been there, battling binky throws and deciphering bedtime cries.
The good news? Sleep isn’t a lost cause. Here’s a quick reminder of your secret weapons:
- Routine: It’s your bedtime bestie! Consistency is key. Bath, book, lullaby – create a calming ritual that signals sleep time to your little one’s body and mind.
- Early to bed, early to rise: This might sound counterintuitive, but an early bedtime can prevent overtiredness and meltdowns. Think of it as an investment in future peaceful nights.
- Listen to your baby: Watch for those tired cues – the eye rubbing, the fussiness, the sudden clinginess. Don’t push bedtime when they’re at their peak.
- Embrace the snuggles: Sometimes, all they need is your warmth and love to melt away the day’s exhaustion. Savor those precious moments, even if they come with a few grumbles.
Remember, mama, even the bravest warriors need rest. So be kind to yourself. Take a nap when you can, share the load with your partner, and don’t hesitate to ask for help. And when the sun peeks through your window, know that you’ve conquered the night, and a fresh day awaits, filled with the endless possibilities of motherhood.