Gentle Ways to Help An Overtired Baby Fall Asleep

If you’re a new mom, don’t be surprised the first time you have an overtired baby on your hands!

Your little one’s brain is developing at a rapid pace and Baby is becoming more aware of her surroundings. Also, she may want to stay up with you instead of taking naps. Babies know when they want to bond!

As a result, once babies become overstimulated and overtired, it may be difficult for them to get to sleep.

It is possible to fix, but prevention is the absolute best cure. 

Don’t we all get cranky and irritable from lack of sleep? Of course! Babies are the same way. In fact, they need rest way more than adults do! They need several naps throughout the day to rest their fast-growing bodies, process the information they’re gathering, and allow their bodies and brains to grow. Sleep is critical for that maturation of your baby’s brain, mood, and growth. Letting them “tire out” throughout the day is NOT effective. It may work for older toddlers, but not infants.

If you let your baby get sleep-deprived frequently and regularly, there could be long-term health consequences.

There are adverse effects of an overstimulated baby that can cause long-term health concerns. When babies are routinely overstimulated and sleep-deprived, their bodies generate high levels of cortisol (a steroid hormone) which we all do under stress.

For babies, frequently elevated cortisol can cause altered brain growth, behavioral problems, and can even cause death in extreme circumstances. ( It’s not to say that your baby cannot experience periodic sleep deprivation as baby fights sleep every now and again. Rather, it’s important to remember that adequate sleep is crucial for their’s not a convenience.

“…parents who show higher levels of sensitivity tend to have babies with lower baseline cortisol levels (Blair et al 2006). And it’s the infants born with ‘difficult,’ easily-distressed temperaments that seem to benefit the most. In studies tracking children over the long term, such babies have ended up with better outcomes than their more laid-back peers – if they were raised by sensitive, responsive parents (Stright et al 2008; Pluess and Belsky 2010).” //

Baby with knitted pants crying

Signs of an Overtired Baby

  • Rubs eyes, face, or hair
  • Yawns
  • Becomes clingy
  • Becomes hyperactive
  • Exhibits grumpiness or fusiness
  • Loses interest in eating or playing

Signs of an Overtired Newborn

  • Cries uncontrollably
  • Arches back
  • Pulls legs up 

Cute baby being held my mother

How to Help an Overtired Baby Sleep

So, you did your best to make sure Baby has her nap on time, but you just couldn’t get there. Now, Baby is fussy, cranky, and overtired…right? Don’t worry, Momma. It happens to the best of us. Here are some tips to help your overtired, sweet little get some shut-eye.

  • Remove stimulation: Be sure to remove any stimulating activities such as toys, games, and tv. If you can’t eliminate the stimulus from the room, take Baby away from the stimulation.
  • Rock or sway Baby to sleep: If Baby’s tired, don’t expect her to fall asleep on her own. Try holding her and gently swaying or bouncing her. It’ll remind her of the calm and security of the womb.
  • Sing while you’re rocking and swaying: Singing helps babies regulate their emotions. Basically, it means it will help her calm down if she stressed and it works much better than talking! (
  • Feeding (if it’s feeding time): Nursing a baby to sleep is not a bad thing!
  • Go for a walk: Being outdoors and breathing fresh air provides an incredible sense of relaxation and calmness. ( Try the walk while babywearing. Again, it mimics the womb and can help Baby fall right to sleep.
  • Create a neutral space: Your baby knows her likes and dislikes. If your overtired baby won’t sleep, try calming music and check the temperature. If it’s nighttime, turn down/off all the lights except maybe a red/amber nightlight.
  • Baby massage: First, make sure your baby is not sensitive to touch! Touch, for some babies, can be overwhelming. If your baby’s up for it, try infant massage to help her calm down enough to sleep.

Mother trying to calm newborn baby

How to Help an Overtired Newborn Sleep

In addition to the tips above, the following are perfect for your newborn:

  • Swaddling: Swaddling your newborn is sought out to be the best way for your newborn to sleep. The comfort from the swaddle mimics the closeness of the womb and allows them to stay warm and soothed.
  • Skin to Skin: An even better idea is skin-to-skin time! According to Shari Criso, registered nurse, and certified lactation consultant, “Your breasts are able to detect even a one-degree drop in your baby’s temperature and warm up. You are the best incubator/warmer there is. Wrapping that baby up like a little burrito is only necessary if he/she will be away from you. But the best way to keep her warm in the early days is to cuddle with them skin-to-skin with a blanket over the two of you. Your skin contact means that baby will have to expend fewer calories regulating her own temperature.” Skin-to-skin also helps Baby regulate her heart and breathing, and it helps her stay in a deep sleep longer. (
  • Feeding: If you are breastfeeding, try feeding your little one to sleep for the reasons above.

baby sleeping on back

Coping with Frustration

As your baby is irritated or showing no signs of progression through this tough time, it is entirely normal to feel frustrated as well during this process. Remember that crying is her only form of communication. She’s just letting you know that something is bothering her.

Even though she may not calm down as you soothe her, she will feel comforted in your arms and will continue to build trust with you and her new home outside the womb.

Most of all, if your overtired baby is making you more stressed than you think you can handle, acknowledge your limits (you’re the adult, after all!) and asked loved ones for help!


Add a Comment