When I do an initial consultation with a new family, the most common reason the family is struggling with sleep is simply due to their baby being overtired. When I hear statements such as, “Why is my baby taking 30-minute naps?”, or “My baby fights sleep!”, or “My baby doesn’t like to sleep.”, and “My baby is inconsolable.” a red flag goes up telling me that their baby is most likely just overtired. Some of you may have started believing that your baby simply hates sleep, but I am here to tell you that is not true. All baby’s need sleep for so many reasons. Check out this blog to understand why your baby needs sleep and how it’s physically impossible for your baby to not like sleep. Believe it or not, every baby needs A LOT of sleep. Today I want to help some families out by explaining what it means for your baby to be overtired, the signs of an overtired baby and how to help prevent it. Let’s begin!
What does it mean for your baby to be “overtired”?
“Overtired? What do you mean they are overtired?”. What usually causes a baby to get overtired is the parent’s lack of knowledge in the baby sleep field and not knowing the length of time their baby needs to stay awake at one given wake window. “Wake window? What’s a wake window?!”. A wake window is the amount of time a baby/toddler can stay awake from waking up to going back down for a nap. This isn’t something your OBGYN tells you after you deliver your baby. It’s also a lot of the time not told you by your pediatrician either. Sadly this information is often left untold and leaves you believing that your baby simply hates sleep. The truth is, babies and toddlers have small wake windows. Newborns should only be staying up for 30-60 mins at a time and a lot of times it’s on the low end! Parents can’t even believe me at first when I tell them that their baby may not be able to stay up for an hour without getting overtired when mom and dad have been keeping baby up for 4-5+ hours at a time. So as you can see, without the right information, your baby can easily become overtired and display all the fussy signs of an overtired baby, which leads me to my next segment.
The signs of an overtired baby.
The signs of an overtired baby a lot of the time resemble a baby with colic.
-hands to the face
-pulling on ears
-will not calm down while being held
-wants to be held by one person
-takes short naps ranging between 20-40 minutes long
-arches their back
Anyone having an “AH-HA!” moment, where the list above sounds all too familiar within your daily routine? These are the signs that your baby is overtired and that you are keeping them up too long for their age! Adjust their wake window until these signs begin to go away.
P.S. If your baby becomes overtired, it is hard for them to fall asleep on their own. They may need extra help from you to fall asleep. Once they take a nap and reset, adjust the wake window for the next time and try again! It’s trial and error, but I promise. If you work at it, you will perfect it eventually!
How to prevent your baby from getting overtired.
It’s simple; adjust the wake window. Refer to the wake window chart below and start at the lower end of your child’s age bracket and then work yourself up until your baby is taking at least a 1 hour and 15 min nap. (SAY WHAT?! Yes, I promise, it is possible!) Once you see that nap duration, you know you have hit their wake window just right! Also, note that every wake window is a little different! Just because the first wake window is 45 mins doesn’t mean the next one will be 45 minutes. It may be, but just be aware of how wake windows can differ as you continue throughout the day. Typically you will see the first wake window be the shortest of the day and the last be the longest. Not meaning that it’s the longest amount of time in your child’s wake window bracket on the chart, but rather the longest wake window for your baby uniquely.
If your baby/toddler is showing signs of being overtired, refer to the wake window chart and adjust their time to try to find that sweet spot (resulting in a 1 hour and 15 min nap at least). If you still are having trouble, reach out to me, and let’s chat! I can troubleshoot for you and help you figure out where your child’s wake window lies. Sometimes you just need someone on your side to help you out and guide you along the way. That’s my specialty!