When Baby is Overtired: Three Tips to Beat the Bedtime Battle

Babies need a lot of sleep; we all know that. Unfortunately convincing your baby of that idea can be harder than anticipated. When an infant isn’t getting the quality and quantity of sleep needed, they will quickly become overtired.

An overtired baby is a cranky baby. This cranky baby leads to cranky parents. The sleep battle can become frustrating, even for experienced parents, because soothing an overtired infant can prove utterly exhausting.

Unfortunately, sleep is not a condition we can force our babies into, but we can help. Learning how to soothe an overtired baby will help both parents and baby to have happier nights.

A baby who is well-rested will eventually become a better sleeper all on their own and learn how to self-soothe. In the meantime, try these three tips to soothe your overtired infant.

According to Dr. Janet Kennedy, author of The Good Sleeper, “When the body becomes overtired the sympathetic nervous system responds with a release of adrenaline . . . the body ‘helps out’ with a burst of energy that keeps us awake.” This adrenaline response in babies is intense because they are so small. Overtired babies will fight sleep, wake frequently, and start their morning very early.

Bath, Bottle, Bed

Try the “three-Bs” method to soothe your overtired baby. Start by giving your baby a quiet, warm bath. The warm water and gentle massage in the tub will soothe muscles that have tensed by fussing. Generally this will start to calm your baby’s crying and prepare her for sleep.

Transitioning your little one from the warm bath to warm arms is the next step. Either bottle or breast feed your baby after bath time to help associate the routine of bed time. The smooth movement from warm bath, to warm arms, to warm bed is a road map for baby that sleep will soon follow.

Use Calming Sounds

For many babies simply turning on a white noise machine may help their little minds relax for sleep. When babies are overtired, it may be harder to get them to unwind for sleep. Remember that your fussy baby is already overtired and will fight sleep.

Don’t blast the white noise in your baby’s ear, but do use it to drown out excess noise outside the room and to cue your baby that it is time for sleep. You could also try having a special song or lullaby that is sung just for bed time. Baby will start to associate these sounds with the idea that it is time for sleep.

Use Swaddles and Loveys

If your baby is very fussy and worked up, a good option to soothe them may be a swaddle. Don’t be confused by their fussiness; babies often resist being swaddled much like they are fighting sleep.

Before you give up on the swaddle idea, make sure the swaddle is properly fastened. Although every baby is different, most infants still like the confined feeling of the swaddle, which resembles the security of the womb.

The swaddle will also help eliminate the jerky, unwanted movements that your over fatigued baby may make. Sometimes these startling reflexes can wake your baby as he is drifting to sleep.

As your child ages, you can also try introducing a lovey. These products are marketed specifically for baby to sleep with.

Loveys are often a small blanket or stuffed animal which is only given to your baby at bed time to associate with sleep time. These objects are often the beginning of a baby’s ability to self-soothe. Keep in mind most pediatricians still recommend that very few objects go into the crib for baby’s safety. If you decide to introduce a lovey make sure it does not pose a hazard to your sleeping infant.

Actively trying to notice the signs and symptoms of an overtired baby will allow you to put your baby down before the meltdowns begin. By watching your baby for tired cues and establishing a regular bedtime routine you can often eliminate your baby feeling over tired and cranky.

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