Nothing says the holidays like the frenzy of shopping, parties, cookies, dinners, gifts that mark the holiday season each year. Every mum looks forward to twinkling Christmas lights and babies in Christmas pajamas who open gifts under a glowing tree. But the steps it takes to get to that magic moment – well, they’re almost enough to send any mum into a peppermint-flavored free fall. Not only are mum’s responsibilities doubled at this time of year, bub seems to need so much more attention. And with all of the activity and chocolate and holiday delight, this is certainly a recipe for imminent disaster. Sleep disaster, that is.
Nothing ruins bub’s sleep faster than a special occasion. And the fallout from a change in schedule can haunt you long after the eggnog has run dry and the holiday decorations have been carefully stowed away. You might even feel this until Spring.
With the constant disruption in schedule, the influx of friendly faces bearing new toys, and the sweet treats, bub doesn’t stand a chance! There’s no way she will maintain the sleep schedule you have worked so hard to create.
But it doesn’t have to be this way … read on for tips to maintain your sanity and help ensure that bub doesn’t completely lose his sleep schedule.
Schedule and Routine when Possible!
Whether you are home or traveling, do your best to keep to bub’s schedule. Now, this may not always be possible, but you can try to alternate nights of maintaining her normal sleep schedule and veering off course. Once you create a pattern of three or four nights off schedule, it will be harder to get your little one back into the same rhythm. One or two nights a week off schedule shouldn’t cause any long-term harm.
Along the same lines, try to maintain your baby’s sleep routine. If you usually read a book and feed before bed, keep up that pattern. Bring a book along with your if you are traveling or choose holiday-themed books at home to help keep up the Christmas spirit. If you can, quiet down your house for some time before the bedtime routine starts. It will help bub settle, and it will help you relax, too!
If your little one is used to sleeping with a favorite stuffed animal or a particular blanket, bring it along with you. Anything you can do to remind your baby of home – particularly at bedtime – will help to make disruptions to his sleep schedule easier. If you know your little one is especially particular, bring along a sheet that he is used to, as well. Remember that babies won’t understand the concept of a holiday, so they won’t know why they aren’t sleeping at home! Reminding them of home helps to ease the transition, particularly if they wake during the middle of the night.
White Noise and a Dark Room
If you can provide your baby with a dedicated space to sleep while on holiday, this will help them immensely. Creating ambiance with a white noise machine or a sleep CD can help create a calming environment that will ease any stress that comes from being away from home. It will also help in the event that bub wakes in the middle of the night. A dark room can help with the same issues. It can help bub forget that he is not home and help him self-settle at night.
Your baby feeds off you – literally and figuratively! If you are stressed, either about holiday plans in general or her sleep, she will know! If you are enjoying yourself and are relaxed, she will know this, too! Enjoying yourself helps both of you and will help bub feel at ease every night as you try to get her to sleep in a strange place.
Swaddling is a technique that many parents rely on during the early stages of their baby’s life. Many believe that it helps with the transition from the warm, protective setting of the womb to the outside world. Science tells us that babies are also born with a Moro or startle reflex that makes babies feel as though they are falling. This happens during sleep and causes a sleeping baby to wake abruptly and rather unhappily. Swaddling eases or completely erases the chance this may happen by keeping the baby’s arms gently restrained at her sides. Swaddling provides comfort and helps settle most babies for their first three to four months of life. It’s about this time that many parents begin to transition out of the swaddle. Here are three ways to know that your baby is ready to move away from sleeping in a swaddle.
Your Baby can Roll Over
One of the most important times to stop swaddling your baby is when she develops the ability to roll over in the swaddle. With her arms pinned to her sides, she will be unable to maneuver herself safely in the cot and may end up sleeping face down. Safe sleeping guidelines do not recommend letting babies sleep face down until they are able to turn themselves back over. Once your baby starts rolling over during play time, assume that she will soon figure out how to roll over in her swaddle. This is a good time to begin the transition out of the swaddle.
Your Baby Breaks out of Her Swaddle
If you use a traditional wrap to swaddle your baby then inevitably, your baby will become stronger than the cloth you use you swaddle her. At this point, the swaddle will no longer be useful and you face the risk of having a loose wrap in the cot with your sleeping baby. Once your baby can successfully remove herself from her swaddle, it may be time to look for other sleep solutions. You may choose to use transitional items that resemble a looser swaddle to help ease your baby’s transition to sleeping on her own.
If you use a swaddle suit then you can extend the time your baby is swaddled as she won’t be able to wriggle out of them. There are a variety of products available to transition out of a swaddle into a sleeping bag. Note that swaddle suits are only suitable for babies who cannot roll in their cots as they restrain her arms like a traditional swaddle wrap.
You Want to Sleep Train
If you decide to sleep train your baby, you will want to remove her swaddle first. This allows her to have access to her fingers and hands as she will likely use these when learning to self soothe. The decision on if and/or when to sleep train is a very personal one to each family but your baby’s use of a swaddle can be a good marker in deciding when to start sleep training. If your baby still needs her swaddle, it may be best to delay sleep training. If she is making moves away from using a swaddle, this could be a window for helping to teach her to self-settle.
Throughout pregnancy and in the early years of your child’s life, there is no advice that is given more frequently than: “Nap when they nap.” For the soon-to-be mum and the tired mum, naps sound like heaven. You envision putting your little one down for a nap and enjoying a blissful “extra” two hours of sleep. Except – you need to make a quick stop. You check into the kitchen for a quick snack. You scan your phone. You use the bathroom. Half an hour goes by in a flash before you settle onto your own bed. Just as you close your eyes...
Bub is awake. The bliss is over. Yours and his! The worst part is you just spent over an hour putting him to sleep! All for a twenty-five minute nap.
He’s just not a sleeper, you say. He’ll grow out of it one day.
Then later, Oh, I didn’t want a daytime nap anyway!
Why Does it Happen?
There are a couple of reasons that bub won’t nap for longer than 20-30 minutes at a time. Oddly enough, he might be too tired. That’s right, he may be so overtired that he can’t settle into a deep enough sleep. Or he may be too dependent on settling techniques to settle himself if he wakes up.
How to Discourage Catnaps
Developing a consistent sleep schedule – for both nighttime and naptime – can help to solve catnapping problems. For almost all babies under two, aim for at least 12 hours of sleep at night. Then, make sure that you are consistently spacing the nap or naps during the daytime so your little one both expects them and knows how much awake time he will have. It’s also very normal for newborns to take frequent catnaps, so older babies may be holding on to this pattern. A consistent schedule can help ease babies out of their catnapping patterns.
Another way to help bub transition away from catnaps is to give him opportunities to settle himself. If he knows he can put himself to sleep, he will be more likely to try to do it if he wakes after 30 minutes. This doesn’t mean you have to let him cry if you are not comfortable doing that, but you don’t need to run into his room at the first sign of stirring. Let him call you when he is ready. Don’t worry! He will definitely let you know!
If you are confident in your bub’s sleep schedule or you need help developing one, you can try darkening their room at naptime. Then, he will associate the dark with sleep and may be encouraged to continue sleeping while he is in a darkened room. The same goes for white noise. Providing bub with some background noise while sleeping can be another cue that it is sleep time and can help your little one transition between sleep cycles on his own.
For younger babies, swaddling can lessen the Moro reflex which gives babies the sensation that they are falling if their arms are free. A swaddle will keep their arms close to their body, which will eliminate this sensation and keep bub from startling himself awake.
What if Nothing Works?
Some babies will continue to be catnappers until the day they drop their nap. Sorry mum! But, the important thing is that bub gets enough sleep every day. Some babies may be happier sleeping 14 hours at night and taking 2-3 catnaps during the day. While others may only sleep ten hours at night and take two two-hour naps during the day. Trust your instincts! If bub isn’t showing signs of being overtired and is near the recommended range of sleep for a baby their age, relax and go with it. At the very least, you’ll get really good at accomplishing at a lot in 30 minutes!
You’re fast asleep … finally. After years of repeated wakings, your preschooler has settled into a good sleep pattern. The days of the sleep-deprived, stumbling mum are gone. You actually look forward to bedtime again. Then, one night, you’re awakened by a loud thump. Followed by a scream. Then, tears. You rush into your little guy’s room afraid of what you’ll find. And there … right there … is your little guy sitting straight up in his bed, crying. You rush over and hug him, but he doesn’t seem to respond.
Your child may be one of the 5 of every 100 who suffer from night terrors. More intense than a nightmare, school age children sometimes suffer from night terrors if there is a history of night terrors in the family or they are suffering from a fever.
What Exactly is a Night Terror?
Night terrors generally happen when a child is in their deepest sleep. Lasting not more than 10 minutes, they cause primarily physiological responses that the child cannot control, and you cannot ease. Often, the terror will begin with a scream. Then the child may begin to flail wildly or they may run out of their bed and room all together. Even though their eyes are open, they are not awake and will not recognize you or respond to you. This can be pretty scary as a parent, but it’s best not to disrupt them or upset them.
What Can You Do?
The most important thing to do is to stay calm. Your child will not be able to respond to you, so the best thing you can do is follow him around and make sure that he does not hurt himself. When he calms down, you can comfort him and help him back into bed. If night terrors become a common thing in your home, make sure your house is safe for your nighttime wanderer. Make sure there is nothing to trip on and that all doors to the outside are locked. It may also be helpful to shut doors to rooms that could potentially be hazardous to your child. The next morning, you don’t need to bring up the episode with your child. He will not remember it, and you run the risk of upsetting him unnecessarily.
Remember that most kids will outgrow night terrors naturally. Until that time, you can take some preventive measures that some children respond to. One of the best ways to prevent terrors is to ensure that your child is getting enough sleep. Regular sleep patterns can help your child to avoid some of these uncomfortable nights.
What About Nightmares?
A more common occurrence in young kids are nightmares. These are potentially less frightening for the parent because your child will wake up when they are over. Nightmares generally happen in the second half of the night. After a nightmare, a child may wake up crying, but he will wake up. He may remember the dream and talking about it may be comforting. Your child will likely settle with your presence, and you should be able to put him back to sleep.
What Should I Do?
The key difference between nightmares and night terrors is that your child will be responsive by the time you hear him screaming or crying. While you should avoid touching your child during a night terror, feel free to scoop them up and cuddle them immediately after a nightmare.
How Do I Tell the Difference?
If you are unsure what has just occurred, remember that night terrors happen fairly soon after the child goes to sleep, and nightmares happen close to waking time. If you are still not sure, you can try to talk to your child. If he responds to you, he has likely had a nightmare. If he does not seem to hear or see you, just monitor him and care for him as you would while he has a night terror.
The good news is that most children will grow out of both night terrors and nightmares. With understanding and patience, you can help your child feel safe and secure. Your comforting will help your child feel at ease until he outgrows the night terror or nightmare phase.
Besides the joy of holding your newborn in your arms, sleep deprivation is one of the only other things almost guaranteed by parenthood. Part of the baby sleep equation is knowing exactly how long your baby should be awake for between naps. The answer to this question depends on many different factors, which is why many first-time parents can find it difficult!
Here we answer your most pressing questions, highlight the importance of naps for good sleep at night, and give a general guide to what your baby’s awake time should look like.
Is there a normal awake time for all babies?
The short answer:
No, since no baby is the same and infants have a wide variety of sleep and wake time patterns. However, there is a window of awake time by age that will suit most babies
The slightly longer answer:
Starting in the womb, babies have their own personalities, temperaments and even physical needs. While every baby needs a whole lot of sleep and a whole lot of milk, what this looks like in practice varies from baby to baby.
“The sleep routine is a precarious balancing act wrapped inside a juggling routine. There are dozens of unpredictable factors that come into play, and each of them has an effect on the other.”
~ Dana Obleman, The Sleep Sense Program
Because sleep time is affected by so many factors, the safest way to determine when your baby is due for a nap is by how long they have been awake.
Ok, how long should my baby be awake for?
There really is no such thing as a ‘normal’ schedule for newborn babies. Some infants will wake up hungry every couple of hours; others will sleep for four or five hours and have to be woken to feed! As your baby gets older though, they will have bigger gaps between both feeds and sleeps.
Use this guide to awake time for what to expect for your baby as the develop:
Newborns: 45 minutes-1 hour of awake time
3 Months to 5 Months: 1.5-2 hours of awake time
6 Months to 7 Months: 2.5-3 hours of awake time
8 Months to 12 Months: 3-4 hours of awake time
1 Year to when drop daytime nap: 5-6 hours of awake time
Is my baby awake long enough?
When a baby is awake long enough they are more likely to fall asleep easily and have a longer nap. However, they shouldn't be awake too long or you risk the dreaded overtired baby! Tricky huh!! Don’t worry, you will get to know your baby and what their ideal sleep window looks like. If you find that naptime is getting difficult then ask yourself: Are they not tired enough? Or overtired? Use our awake time as a guide but remember to look at the signs your baby is giving you too.
The Importance of Day Naps for Good Night Sleep
We all know the good a nap can do for the soul. Take that thought and quadruple it for your baby. Without having enough daytime naps, a baby can easily become overtired. For babies, overtiredness looks very different than being tired enough to sleep. They will find it very difficult to not only get to sleep but also to have a restful sleep.
Picture this: Mum rocks swaddled baby enjoying the precious baby scent and peaceful little face. His little body relaxes in her arms and he drifts off to sleep. Nothing can take away the feeling of joy (and relief!) that comes from a sleeping baby. She gently places him down in his bed…. and his eyes snap open! She picks him up and rocks some more. When she tries to put him down, he wakes again. Mum wonders if she’ll ever get him to stay asleep! What’s going on? Read on to find out.
What is a Sleep Association?
A sleep association is anything that we associate with going to sleep. Yes, we have them as adults too. Think about your bedroom and your bed. Your pillow. Your side of the bed. If you had to go to sleep on a different pillow or the other side of the bed, would it be harder to sleep? Or what about the first night in a new room on holiday? It takes a bit to get settled when we’re not in our own beds.
If your bub goes to sleep in your arms or while feeding and they suddenly find themselves in their beds without these things, they will struggle to sleep. When they wake during the night they will look for that rocking or feeding too. Some babies will grow out of these associations on their own, but others may need a little help.
Are All Sleep Associations Bad?
No! Remember we called your pillow a sleep association? Some associations are comforting and when they are manageable by the sleeper, they aren’t negative and in fact are a good thing. So, if your pillow falls off the bed, you are able to pick it up and go back to sleep.
What about baby? If she has a blankie or dummy and can find it on her own, it’s not a negative sleep association. If she needs a bottle of milk and can’t make it to the refrigerator to refill it, that’s a little more disruptive! The key is to help your baby associate sleep with items she can manage on her own.
Positive Sleep Associations
Every baby will have something they like to do to help them drift off to sleep. Some positive sleep associations are baby sleeping bags, a lovey/comforter, white noise or sleep music (that stays on all night/nap time). Each of these will still be there or within easy reach for your baby when they go to sleep or stir during the night. Dummies can also be OK if bub can find them and put them back in herself. This is where having multiple dummies in the cot or a comforter that has the dummy attached to it can be handy.
If your baby has some unhelpful sleep associations, you can begin to transition away from them while introducing a positive association. Very simply put, this is what sleep training is all about. Gradually bub learns to go to sleep without the previous association and feels comfortable going to sleep on their own.
So sleep associations can be a good thing and one of the keys toward a happy, sleeping baby. Which means a happy sleeping mummy!
When you first brought your newborn home, you waited for the day you and your baby would get a restful night sleep. You slowly conquered the “Party like it’s 1999, my baby is sleeping” mission then BAM - the party's over. Your restful night sleep is gone because your baby can’t seem to fall asleep and constantly wakes up during the night again. Most parents wonder what on earth is happening and if they’re doing something wrong. First off, you are not doing anything wrong and you are not alone. What your baby is going through is normal and it’s called a sleep regression.
What Is a Sleep Regression?
Sleep regressions occur when your baby seems to be sleeping well and out of nowhere they start having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. They occur during times of big milestones and leaps in development. Sleep regressions are perfectly normal but can be very challenging!
The 4 Month Sleep Regression
The first time your baby will go through a sleep regression is at 4 months. The fourth month of your baby’s life is filled with many milestones such as smiling spontaneously, babbling and copying sounds they hear and perhaps rolling.
Your baby’s sleep also changes significantly at 4 months from that of a newborn to be more adult like. Adults fall into a light sleep and then go into a deep sleep soon after. Newborns fall into deep sleep almost immediately. This is why they can sleep just about anywhere without anything bothering them. Now, they are entering light sleep first so when you are done rocking or feeding and it seems as if your baby is fast asleep, they are not. You go to lay them down and their little eyes snap open, wondering why you are putting them down. These cycles between light and deep sleep occur throughout the night too meaning your baby wakes briefly multiple times. If they find it difficult or impossible to go back to sleep by themselves this is the reason why you will need to be up multiple times a night. So, not only is your baby experiencing all kinds of milestones; they are experiencing big sleep changes too.
And There Are More???
Yes, there are more. Sleep regressions occur around 4, 10 and 18 months of age. Just like the fourth month, these months are filled with new exciting milestones that your baby is compelled to practice over and over, even during sleep time. At 9th months, your baby will be going through huge physical and language development and likely also teething like crazy. At 18 months, your baby is more independent and may not want to go to bed just because you say so and separation anxiety will come into play along with more teeth (molars!).
So, what to do?
What’s the Best Way to Cope?
Sleep regressions are challenging times! Here are a few tips to get you and your baby through with (relative!) ease.
4 month Regression
Just get through it! The changes to the cycles of your baby’s sleep are permanent but just focus on surviving this one until the worst is over. Offer extra feeds and comfort short term. Accept whatever help you can from friends and family if things get really tough. Once the worst of it is over you may need to look at your baby’s sleep associations and consider sleep training. As mentioned above, if bub isn't able to fall back to sleep by themselves then they will continue to need you multiple times a night. The methods that may have worked beautifully for settling your newborn to sleep eg rocking, feeding to sleep, may no longer be best suited. Remember, sleep training doesn't have to mean “cry it out”. There are a lot of different approaches to suit both yours and your baby’s temperaments. It’s important to note that if you are comfortable with getting up to your baby or the settling methods you are using then there is no need to change them.
For all sleep regressions, the following can help:
Your baby is losing sleep and is at risk of becoming over tired which will lead to even more sleep issues. Vicious cycle! One way to combat that is to offer an earlier bedtime.
Prioritise Nap and Bedtime
It can be difficult to work around baby’s schedule but as they go through sleep regressions it’s helpful to give them the best chance of sleeping. If your bub is unlikely to have a decent nap when you are out and about then try to be home for most of their naps. This is also a good time to stick even more closely to your bedtime routine if you have one, or consider implementing one if you don’t.
Offer extra comfort... but with some caution
During sleep regressions you are almost certainly going to need to offer more comfort than usual to your baby to help them go to sleep or back to sleep. This can be kisses, cuddles and some extra day or night feedings. The only word of caution is to be aware of creating new habits around falling asleep or going back to old habits you may have weaned. If bub has been able to fall asleep by themselves and is then rocked to sleep they may want to be rocked even after the regression.
There is no denying it - sleep regressions are tough! Like all phases of your baby’s development though, they do pass. Follow our handy tips and both you and bub will soon be through it and ready for the next exciting phase.
If your vision of tucking your baby into bed, kissing his head and walking out the door is something you dream of, you’re not alone. One of the biggest surprises in early parenting is that your little one doesn’t happily drift off to sleep.
From birth, we rock them, bounce them and feed them to sleep. At some point, most parents find they’d like their baby to be a bit more independent in going to sleep. One of the keys to this is establishing a bedtime routine.
What is a Bedtime Routine?
A bedtime routine can be anything your family needs it to be. Basically, it’s the series of events that you use to help your child wind down and understand that it is time for sleep. The key to a successful routine is to make it something both you and your child are comfortable with. It may take a few tweaks to figure out what is the most efficient and effective way to get your child to sleep. Eventually though, you’ll have it down and both you and your baby will find bedtime a whole lot easier.
Why is a Routine Helpful?
Your bedtime routine with your child will eventually become a set of cues. Your child will understand that when events X, Y, and Z happen (or A, B, C, D, E, F, G), it is time for bed. Children are creatures of routine, and routine brings comfort. Your baby or child will eventually realize that once all of the steps are complete, they will be expected to sleep. So, consistency is key!
A routine can also help to deal with your child’s “tricky” behaviours around bedtime. If you have a clingy child, a bedtime routine will give him advance warning that you will depart. An anxious child will anticipate bedtime for a longer period of time with a drawn out routine so a short and simple one will be better suited. On the other hand, if you have a child who is very active, you may need a longer routine to help her settle down. If you expect her to go from full speed to asleep in 20 minutes, you will likely have a battle on your hands.The key is to develop a routine that is tailored to your child’s needs and personality, keeping in mind to avoid any activities that are known to trigger tears and tantrums.
When Should a Bedtime Routine Begin?
It’s never too early or too late to start a bedtime routine! You will have plenty of other things to focus on with a newborn but once your baby is a little older you can start with something simple. For example, singing the same song each time your baby goes into bed. This simple step will help your baby begin to understand when it’s time to go to sleep.
Around four months, your baby will go through his first sleep regression where his pattern of sleep cycles will transition to be more like adult sleep. This is a great time to introduce a more consistent bedtime routine. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but make sure you follow the same steps every night. You can also have a briefer version of the routine before each nap.
Examples of Bedtime Routines
Here are a couple of examples of some bedtime routines:
For babies, you might try: Dinner, Bath, Milk feed, Song in a dim room, Rocking, into Bed.
For a toddler you might try: Dinner, Quiet play time (or more active if it helps an energetic toddler get rid of their last energy for the day), Bath, Quiet Story Time/Song Time, Brushing Teeth, into Bed
Remember that consistency is key. Although it can feel mundane to do the same thing every night, the benefit of peaceful bedtime for everyone is worth it!
Your baby’s daytime naps are just as important as their nighttime slumber. As parents, we tend to focus on nighttime sleep because frankly, we no longer wish to be sleep deprived. However, regular naps that are appropriate to your baby’s age will help them to sleep better over night and be happier during the day.
What to Expect in the First 18 Months
First, let’s look at what your baby’s sleeping habits will be like during the first 18 months of their life.
When your baby is born, they are pretty much the boss. You should not expect any kind of sleeping pattern with a newborn. They will sleep and feed often both day and night. This is tough for parents but before you know it, this time in their life and yours will pass. So with dark circles under your eyes and all, embrace the moment as best you can.
At 6-8 weeks, babies often start sleeping less often but for longer stretches at night and by 3-4 months you will likely start seeing a pattern. Your baby will most likely be having around 4 naps a day. You may notice your baby taking morning naps at around the same time every day. This is the start of your baby’s naps following a more regular schedule.
By 6 months your baby will probably be down to 2-3 naps a day and by 9-12 months most babies will be down to 2 naps a day. Then at 12-18 months, most babies will give up that second nap and go down to 1 nap a day. Remember, all babies are not the same and can change quickly. Note too that while most will start to follow a regular pattern there will always be off days or even weeks.
Developing A Nap Routine
Developing a regular pre-nap routine will help cue to your baby that it’s sleep time. Your nap routine does not need to be very elaborate. It could be a shorter version of your night bedtime routine eg short story and song. Once you start figuring out your baby’s napping pattern, you will find what works best for your baby to wind him down for naptime.
When Baby Won’t Nap
Overtired/Stick to Schedule
There are many reasons why your baby may not want to nap, but the most common is that your baby is overtired. Your baby can only stay awake for so long before they need to sleep and waiting too long can cause them to become overtired. An overtired baby will find it very difficult to sleep.
Once you develop your baby’s nap routine and schedule, it is ideal to stick to it each day. With that being said, sometimes life is going to get in the way. If your baby does miss a nap, don’t stress over it. Put them down earlier for their next nap or bedtime and they should catch up. Remember you are doing your best as a parent, so try not to focus on what did not get done, but instead on what went well.
Not Tired Enough/Baby May Not Want to Nap
Just as it’s important that your baby isn’t over-tired at naptime, it’s also important that they are tired enough. Over time you will find your baby’s ideal window for sleep. If they start not to nap so well then maybe they need to stay up a bit longer before going down to nap.
As your baby gets older, you will notice how they want to interact more and a nap is only getting in the way of that. While you may notice they can continue to play past nap time they are then at risk of becoming overtired. So, even though your baby may look happy and content just playing, we as parents need to give them the opportunity to nap.
Is your Baby’s Room Ready for Naptime?
You want to be sure your baby’s room is conducive to naptime. Ideally they will mostly nap in the same place as they sleep overnight. It helps if the room is darkened and quiet with minimal distractions. White noise can help to drown out daytime noise especially if there are siblings at home. You know your baby better than anyone and you will figure out what will help them get the best rest.
Enjoy Nap time
Once you find a nap schedule that fits, it should make both yours and your baby’s days happier. Your baby will be well rested and you will have some time out to catch up on the inevitable list of chores but also hopefully enjoy that well earned hot cuppa!
Knowing what to do when your baby becomes overtired can seem overwhelming to new parents, but there are ways to help you and your baby cope when this challenging situation arises.
Newborn babies need a lot of sleep at around 15-17 hours in a 24 hour period but some are able to sleep more easily than others. There is a wide range of normal sleeping patterns - some infants will sleep for three or four hours at time, and need to be woken to feed. Others will sleep for only an hour at a time. However they can usually only handle short periods of awake time before needing to sleep.
Almost all babies will become overtired at some point. When they do they will find it very difficult to sleep and be extremely fussy. For new parents, it can be difficult to know what to do with an overtired baby. With this in mind, we answer three major questions for all new parents out there: why babies get overtired, what the signs of overtiredness are, and how best to cope with an overtired baby.
The Why: Causes of a Baby becoming Overtired
Overtiredness is a kind of fatigue that engages the stress-response system in infants. As the name implies, overtiredness goes beyond mere tiredness. When a baby is overtired, it is difficult to get them to go to sleep. Instead, overtired babies are very fussy and can seem ‘wired’.
Because newborns are constantly learning from the stimulation all around them, they need regular periods of sleep so that their brain has time to process everything (it's useful to know the normal napping habits of a baby during the day). The average newborn can only handle about forty-five minutes to 1.5 hours of awake time before needing sleep. Once this period passes, babies may produce more adrenaline to stay awake, which creates a cycle of overtiredness.
The What: Signs of an Overtired Baby
As a new parent, it will take you a while to learn the signs your baby shows when they are tired. These can include:
- Looking away from stimulation
- Pulling at their ears
- Rubbing eyes, ears or head
- Jerky arm and leg movements
- Closing their fists
If a baby isn’t given the opportunity to sleep when they become tired or if they are not able to go to sleep then they can become over tired. So what are the signs to look for?
- Arching their back and appearing in pain
- Unable to settle easily
- Crying a lot
- Very clingy
- Difficulty feeding
- Appearing ‘wired’, wound up and extremely alert
The How: what to do when your Baby is Overtired
Now that you know what overtiredness looks like, as well as what causes overtiredness in the first place, the next step is to understand the best approach to managing an overtired baby. It can be a very tough situation for both parent and baby but there are things you can do to help you both through it.
Of course, the best thing that you can try to do for your baby is to prevent him or her from becoming overtired. Once you can recognise your baby’s tired signs this will become easier. Also understanging how long your baby should be awake between naps will be helpfil. However, sometimes despite everyone’s best efforts your baby won’t be able to sleep at the ideal time and will become overtired.
Here are several things that you can do to help them calm down, become drowsy, and eventually get to sleep: