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How to recognise when your baby is tired

Learn the baby tired signs that mean it's nap time and never miss your baby's 'sleep window' again
Babies can go from being wide awake, to tired, to overtired in a very short space of time and if you miss the 'sleep now' window they can quickly start to become agitated and irritable.

Learning to recognise your baby's tiredness signs will mean that you can put them down for a nap as soon as they start to become drowsy. This will not only help to avoid any upset but will also mean that they'll be able to settle easier and enjoy a more restful sleep.

So, to help you help your baby into the land of nod, we share the signs you need to look out for:

Newborns to 3 months -

Newborn babies need an awful lot of sleep and can spend up to 18 hours a day napping in the first few of weeks. They are rarely able stay awake for more than a couple of hours at a time and quickly become overtired if they're kept up longer than this. However, because very young babies haven't yet gained control over their movements, their behaviour is very much driven by automatic reflexes. This means that their tiredness signs are easily missed and can be confused with wind or hunger.

By spotting your newborn baby's tiredness signs as soon as possible and putting them down for a nap straight away they should settle easier and you'll be able to avoid the fussing that comes when baby becomes overtired.

Signs of tiredness to look for include:
  • Fussing, grizzling or crying

  • Back arching

  • Clenching fists

  • Jerking leg movements

  • Glazed stare

  • Looking away

  • Facial grimacing

  • Wriggling

3 to 12 months -

By the time babies reach 3-4 months of age they'll be sleeping a little less, usually around 15 hours a day, and starting to spend longer periods awake and asleep - generally they'll start to become overtired after 2.5 - 3 hours. However, over the next few months their sleep patterns will start to fall into a more regular day-night pattern and you should be able to start getting a little more rest too!

As baby gradually gains control of their limbs their typical tiredness signs will become more obvious and easier to spot. Keeping a close eye out for these as well as sticking to a regular nap and bedtime routine will help to prevent your baby from becoming overtired meaning a better nights sleep for all.

Signs to look out for include:
  • Fussing, whinging and crying

  • Pulling ears, nose and hair

  • Yawning

  • Wriggling

  • Rubbing eyes

  • Clingy

12 months plus -

Once your baby reaches the 12 month mark their 'sleep now' signs will be a lot more predictable. However, because they're starting to become so curious at this age they will often try hard to resist the urge to sleep just because they don't want to miss out on a single thing. As a result it's often quite hard to get them to settle which is why a calming bedtime routine is so important.

Once an older infant becomes overtired they can start to act out and arguments and mini temper tantrums can ensue so starting to get them ready for bed as soon as you spot their tired signs is a must.

Signs to look out for include:
  • Yawning

  • Rubbing eyes

  • Bumping into things

  • Falling over

  • Clingy

  • Disinterested in toys and food

Whether you have a question about your baby's sleep habits or something else entirely, why not visit the AskBaby forums for a chat with other parents.

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Aren't newborn babies grizzly, grimacing and fist clenching when they are hungry and wet too?
by lornaross 9th Apr 2009, 9:35am