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Recognising baby tired signs – a Hubber’s guide

Newborn baby is yawning because she is tired and needs to sleepHow do you know when your baby is ready to sleep?

If you’re new to this whole parenting thing it can be a hard thing to spot – a newborn baby’s tired signs are aren’t as obvious and easy to recognise as you’d think.

You will – through watching them closely – learn to spot your baby’s tired signs. You’ll also learn that a baby gets overtired very quickly and an overtired baby is much harder to settle to sleep.

What can sometimes help when learning to recognise your baby’s tired signs and signals is to get advice from other mums and dads.

So here are some tips on recognising baby tired signs – by age – from our Bub Hub members.

Baby tired signs – from birth

“In those early weeks both mine would do the same thing – they would twist their bodies to one side and turn their heads to look up the side as well, and then come back forward, and slowly repeat the whole movement, usually waiting in between to stare off into space. It was like they were trying to roll over and snuggle into something. – BabyPaparazzi

“For both my son and daughter from birth the routine was: First yawn = change nappy and get bed ready and then 2nd yawn and eye rub = feed/cuddle/swaddle/bed. I made sure I did steps 1 and 2 before 3rd yawn or watch out!! – Bonneyjean

7 weeks

“At 7 weeks and earlier, my son would rest his head on anything soft. If I dared to wear a T-shirt without a jumper, he’d whinge because my shoulder was too bony. He’d also bury his face into anything soft and close by (often my armpit – babies are weird!).” – swimyabuggers

8 weeks

“My daughter who is 8 weeks has a few tired signs, red eyelids, yawning, grizzly, jerky movements and blank stares.” – LibranTwin

10 weeks

“My daughter is 10 weeks old and she yawns, rubs eyes, goes quiet and lastly she has what I call a “fake” cry, where she just makes a “huh huh” noise.” – poppyseed

12 weeks

“For us, it’s still early days but his tired signs seem to be: eyelids go pink and eventually  red, stops “goo-ing” and stares in the distance, kicks his arms and legs (slowly at first and then speeds up to jerky and vigorously), yawns and if he’s crying it sounds like “ouwww” (like the short version of ouch).” – NicAndStu

SUPPORT: Chat to other parents about baby sleep issues in our forum

3 months

“My son is 3 months old and his movements get jerky, he has a hacking cry and he goes red around the eyes. If I catch it early enough (easier said then done with an active toddler) I wrap him and he’s off to sleep.” – elleandsam

“My daughter gets red eyebrows, sighs a lot and, if we miss it and she goes over, she screams, arms and legs going crazy, while snuggling into my chest. – butterflyknot

4 months

“My daughter sucks her thumb then her eyes get sleepy. And she yawns and sighs at the same time (I love that sound!). Also if I’m holding her she buries her head (roughly) in my chest.” – lemonpancakes

“My 4-month-old cries and scrunches whole face, with tears; legs and arms go all over the place, really jerky movements; head control starts to go, whole head forward; back arches; eyes look sleepy and rubs eyes.” – shockinamillion

5 months

For my daughter – eyes go pink, BIG yawns, gets restless and starts to whine. She can also be sucking her thumb, she sometimes does this to pacify herself to sleep. She becomes clingy until she falls asleep, then usually can be put straight down. If her thumb doesn’t work a breastfeed does the trick then it’s off to dreamland. When she’s tired she hates to be left alone, usually when she’s not tired she can be left on the floor or walker/rocker etc. – sweetums89

6 months

“My six-month-old is easy to pick – rubbing eyes and grumpy – as soon as we see it we put him straight down!” – Elijahs Mum

7 months

“My daugher’s tired signs are getting whingy, then rubbing her eyes (this is a BIG indicator for us), yawning, getting more grumpy and crying… if we let it go she gets even harder to get to sleep and requires more rocking and holding, but if we get her early she can go to sleep with just a bit of patting and her sleep music on. One of the best things I learned was to OBEY THE TIRED SIGNS, not the clock! even if she has only been awake 45min or an hour, if she is showing tired signs, put her down for a nap!” – LnW

8 months

“My daugher is almost 8 months, and she has a whingy, growley type cry, and also gets crabby, and hard to console, and desperate for her dummy.” – Chelleylane

“My son is 8 months and I am BIG on tired signs. I had a *terrible* time with my first baby – we spent hours upon hours tying to get her to sleep and had a very overtired baby and mummy so I was determined with my son to try and recognise his tired signs as early as I could. Anyways, he sucks two of his fingers and then starts to twirl the one curl he has behind his right ear, then if I pick him up he will rest his gorgeous little head on my shoulder and off to nigh nighs! He also has a different cry and if I am not responsive to him he will start to kick his legs. I usually can tell also by him rubbing his eyes which is pretty obvious.” – Amajai

9 months

“My daughter is 9.5 months old and her tired signs (ever since she was young) are: red eyes, rubbing eyes and if she is really really tired she gets hiccups. – EliG

10 months

“For my daughter they are: she will get fidgety and restless. Then she starts rubbing her eyes. Then grumbling/whinging (not screaming, just complaining) then yawning. If she is not put to bed by the time she either goes 1 of 2 ways – gets her overtired ‘2nd wind’ and starts being more happy, or screams the house down! – Just*Ace

“I am following a sleep schedule, but find that my son’s sleep signs are: he gets very whingy, rubs his ears and his eyebrows go red.” – little miss messy

12 months

“My 12 month old DS rubs his eyes, gets cranky and very clingy, doesn’t want me to put him down.” – Adoreshim

“My son is nearly 13 months: sucks his thumb, bites me and scratches/pulls the hair behind his ear.” – bellalika

13 months

“My 13-month-old puts his head down on things if tired. He carries around a bear a lot and he’ll put it on the ground and use it as a pillow when he wants to go to bed.” – Lunaticity

15 months

“My son is 15 months and when tired he’ll do the usual rub of eyes, but mostly start falling over a lot – like he’s drunk.” – Miska25

17 months

“When my daughter is tired she will come and lay her head on my lap then go back to playing then like 30 seconds later come back to laying her head on me or the couch or dad or anyone she also starts to rub her eyes and sook a little then it’s sleeping bag on and bed and she’s out like a light.” – meljemillie

18 months

“At 18 months, my wife’s godson took himself up a flight of stairs and started rattling the side of the cot wanting to be put in. We figured out that he wasn’t hungry” – swimyabuggers

22 months

“My daughter is 22 months and gets very crabby, literally she goes from calm and placid to cranky and unable to be reasoned with. Although sometimes if I’m lucky she just takes herself to bed.” – elleandsam

23 months

“I have two almost 2-year-olds and their tired signs are: cries at the drop of a hat; rubs eyes; lays on the floor to play (or cry); gets very cuddly; frustrated easily, more tantrums; says “nigh nighs”, very sensitive; extra silly and giggly – runs around like a monkey.” – shockinamillion

2 years

“My son is 2 years and 4 months and he also goes from lovely and happy to a tantrumy mess. Around 19-23 months he would get bitey” – Chelleylane

“My daughter, who is nearly three, has several obvious signs which are yawning and rubbing her eyes and of course being grumpy! – LibranTwin

“My son (almost 3) sucks his thumb.” – bellalika

3 years

“My son is 3 now so not so reliant on tired signs – he goes to bed when I say!” – Monster’s Mum



Thanks to all our Bub Hub forum members who helped with these tips on recognising baby tired signs.

Image credit: akz/123RF Stock Photo

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