Part Five: Signs Your Baby is Overtired and How to Prevent it

Part Five: Signs Your Baby is Overtired and How to Prevent it

Written by: Rachel Norman

I worked hard from the beginning to give my daughter a good routine. I did the best I knew how. I put her down for a nap at the “right” times and I did all the “right” things.

Then we moved overseas and our routine spiraled out of control.

We were looking for houses, jobs, and trying to settle into our new life. I wasn’t always at home when she needed a nap. I wasn’t always able to see when she needed to sleep or when she didn’t. Life was happening.

Quickly – and unfortunately – she became overtired.

After we found a place to live and settled into more of a routine I worked on her sleep. I saw how she suffered when she was overtired and I made a concerted effort to keep her well-rested.

Sleep like a baby…” the expression goes.

But, in my experience, many mothers out there experience the opposite. Their babies don’t seem to sleep at all. Did you know one of the most common reasons babies don’t sleep well?


It’s harder to get to sleep when we are exhausted and worn out. Babies are no different. They might fall asleep hard only to wake up 30 or 40 minutes later in obvious discomfort, unable to go back to sleep.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of an overtired baby:

 ● Frequent fussiness,

● Sleeping very little during the day and has short naps,

● Fighting going to sleep,

● Getting progressively fussier as the day goes on,

● Getting startled easily by things in the environment that brings baby to tears,

● Frequently falling asleep at the breast, in the stroller, or the car seat,

● Finds getting to sleep difficult and wakes easily,

● Acting ready for bed at 5:30 or 6:00 p.m., and

● Waking near midnight crying in an inconsolable manner.

Keep a good routine

If your baby has regular naps and consistent bedtimes, they will not likely get overtired. Barring sickness or occasional routine deviations, keeping a consistent routine will ensure baby is well-rested most of the time. This means baby will be able to cope one a late bedtime, a missed nap, or an overstimulating morning without becoming super fussy or irritable.

Two or three days in a row of major routine deviation, like a vacation, and you’ll notice a considerably more fussy baby.

Avoid screens and craziness right before bed

Screentime is not recommended at all for babies and early toddlers. However, if you do allow a bit of screentime, be sure it’s not immediately before bedtime. Your baby will become overstimulated and the wind-down process will take longer and be more difficult.

If your baby is watching something 20 to 30 minutes before bed, either turn off the screen or remove your baby from the area so their body can begin releasing melatonin, the happy sleep hormone.

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 baby to sleep earlier. If bedtime is normally at 8:00 p.m. but baby always seems Past the Point, then move bedtime up earlier. We wrongly assume putting baby down earlier means baby will wake earlier, but if he or she is overtired the opposite is true.

Sleep begets sleep. The more restorative sleep baby has the more they will sleep.

Guard baby’s sleep

Babies need 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.

 By finding baby’s sleep window, instituting a wind down routine, and putting baby to sleep before he or she becomes overtired you will have a peaceful and well-rested baby. Using the SoundBub white noise machine will help baby wind down and get into a peaceful state to sleep. White noise is an invaluable tool for helping to calm babies.

If baby is overtired they can become frantic or distressed quite easily. A great way to help calm baby down emotionally is to play soothing music, soothing white noise, or even play a story or voice recording of yourself in the background.

You can use WavHello’s VoiceShare app to record a story, poem, or prayer and then play that to help baby calm down and fall into sleep. If you need baby to rest independently and must go attend other things, this is an extremely effective solution for getting baby to remain calm because they’re comforted by your voice. The SoundBub white noise machine is perfect for the nursery or when you’re on the go because its hide away hook can clip easily onto strollers, car seats, and even baby carriers.

This post is part of an 8-post series:

Part 1: What To Focus On During The First Week With A Newborn

Part 2: The Importance Of Swaddling: How And Why

Part 3: How To Create A Wind-Down Routine For Baby

Part 4: The Sleep Window: How To Recognize Baby’s Sleep Cues

Part 5: Signs Your Baby is Overtired and How To Prevent It (you are here)

Part 6: A Surefire Way To Help Baby Sleep More Soundly

Part 7: Early Morning and Dream Feeds: How To Do Them And Wean Them

Part 8: The Art Of Teaching Baby To Sleep On Their Own


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