Sometimes getting a tired baby ( and tired parents) to sleep can feel like an impossible mission. Many parents tell us they have tried EVERYTHING and nothing has worked.
Sleep is a complex task for some children. For these babies, every piece of the sleep puzzle needs to be exactly aligned before they will sleep. Where as other babies seem to just ……go to sleep!
For those parents who’s children don’t just “fall asleep”, they can feel like they are failing, but whether your child sleeps or not, is no reflection upon you as a parent. There are so many reasons that contribute to sleep issues. Temperament, parental support, birth, developmental stage, illness, dependant and independent sleep associations, route and so much more can all effect how your child settles.
Some babies will become over tired quicker than others. This then sets them off into unsettled behaviours. For some parents this may trigger an emotional response of anxiety this feeds back to your baby and a cycle of unhappiness / anxiety starts. Some times having another person hold your baby at this time can bring in a “circuit” breaker and calm the situation.
When babies are over tired they are more difficult to get to sleep. A VERY over tired baby releases a hormone called cortisol – this is a stress hormone that makes getting to sleep almost impossible. Im sure you have all experienced this – when you are so tired you think you could just lay anywhere and sleep – but when you get to your bed sleep doesn’t come. So, to avoid this, we want to pick up on our babies “early tired signs” and act on these quickly.
Early tired signs look slightly different for each baby, but most will start with clenched fists, jerky arm movements, gazing off into nowhere. If you see these – this is the ideal time to start your settling routine and techniques. For a very young baby this might be cuddling to sleep, for older children it might be patting to sleep or an older child might be sitting with them until they are asleep. At each developmental stage children can tolerate a little more independence to help them find sleep independently and to feel safe.
If we miss out Childrens early tired signs, some children will love very quickly into late tired signs. Sucking, grizzling, uncoordinated body movement and finally big movements like back arching, straightening legs and then pulling them in and crying. These tired signs are often very confusing. Parents will see babies doing these things and think, they are bored, they are hungry or they have a belly ache. But by try to fix the perceived problem the child becomes over tired and the crying escalates, we call this confusion “miss cueing”.
It’s important that you get support while trying to settle your baby. Take time out. Ask for help. Tag team with your support person so you don’t become over whelmed.
Learning these tired signs and picking up on them early, can sometimes be all that is needed for successful sleep.