Five Signs Your Baby Is Not Getting Enough Sleep And What To Do About It
“HELP! How do I know if my baby is getting enough sleep?”
This is one of the questions I hear most frequently from desperate Mamas in search of help with their baby’s sleep.
Most often I will refer them to my sleep e-books and routines, which take all the guess work out of it, but here is a list of 5 signs your baby is not getting enough sleep and what to do about it.
1) Your baby is frequently irritable, throwing tantrums or crying inconsolably.
One of the most common mistakes I see Mamas making is feeding their baby every time they cry inconsolably. Yes your baby might be hungry but 9 times out of 10, she is more likely to be overtired.
Before automatically feeding your baby, consider when she last slept, how long she slept for as well as taking into consideration when she last fed. If your baby has been fed within the past 2 hours then chances are her cries are not of hunger.
Generally babies will show signs of tiredness well before they get to the point of being hysterical. Look for indications that your baby is getting tired. Things such as reducing eye contact, grizzling, becoming increasingly emotional or sensitive, rubbing her eyes etc are indications it is time to wind down and prepare for bed.
If you do get to the point where your baby is overtired and hysterical, try to calm her with a firm wrap for younger babies and some calming, low lighting and a gentle cuddle. Once your baby has calmed it will be easier to start your normal sleep routine.
Sometimes stepping outside with your bub can help reset them when they are inconsolable and crying. The main aim is to calm them enough to be able to settle them to sleep.
2) Your baby is waking very early in the morning.
Believe it or not, sleep begets sleep. Often when babies and toddlers are not sleeping well at night, parents will keep them up even later, in the hope they will “sleep-in”. In reality, what usually occurs is quite the opposite with waking even earlier and the cycle of overtiredness continuing.
If your bub is waking very early in the morning make sure their daytime nap isn’t too long or too early in the day. Check that the morning light isn’t waking them and that they aren’t cold as the temperature often drops early in the morning.
It’s important for babies to have a regular consistent bedtime. Most babies and toddlers should be in bed by around 7pm. If your baby is regularly in bed later than this, consider adjusting their bedtime to be a bit earlier.
Keep in mind that many babies and toddlers do naturally wake early. Whilst starting the day at 6am might seem unappealing to us, it is a natural wake up time for many young babies. If you baby is otherwise happy and sleeping well then you might just have to run with it. Waking earlier than 6am can usually be managed by adjusting other aspects of your bub’s routine.
When babies and toddlers aren’t getting enough sleep they will catnap at any given opportunity. Not only will this mean they are overtired but they will also sleep for shorter periods of time. Depending on your little ones age, my routines will have them napping once or twice throughout the day for at least 2 hours. If your child falls asleep in the car and only gets 30 minutes, there is no way she will go back to sleep and get the full amount. 30 minutes will be just enough to get her over the tired hump and she will be grouchy and cranky for the rest of the day.
Where possible try to keep your baby to a consistent sleep pattern that has her sleeping for a good block of time. If your baby wakes from her sleep early, attempt to resettle her so she gets the full amount of sleep she needs. Avoid letting your baby fall asleep in the car or pram when you know she will only get a short nap.
4) Constant eye rubbing or yawning.
Yawning and eye rubbing are often two of the early signs that your bub is ready for a nap. If your baby is yawning or rubbing her eyes constantly during the day it is a sign that she is overtired and in need of more sleep.
5) Your bub is overactive and hyperactive.
Unlike adults, when babies and children are overtired, they start to speed up and get faster. It can be a way of fighting sleep and trying to overcome the dip in energy. In this state they can become clumsy and are at risk of hurting themselves. An overactive baby is difficult to get to sleep. The link between sleep and brain activity is well documented with a strong link between sleep deprivation and disorders such as ADHD.
It is essential to begin preparing your baby for sleep when you notice their tired signs and before they become hyperactive. If you have passed this point, a calming bath, low lighting or a quiet book can help to settle your baby so you can begin your usual sleep routine.
Hopefully these points have helped you pick up on some of the signs of an overtired baby. You may also like my guide to how many hours sleep your child needs depending on her age.
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