Whether you’re a first-time parent or veteran, every baby is different—including their sleep habits. If you find yourself loathing naptime or bedtime, it may be time to reevaluate your baby’s sleepy cues and their schedule. There’s no shame in asking for help. Wanting to be the best parent you can be is worthy of praise. And if you’re reading this with tired eyes, desperate for help, read on to identify when your newborn is ready to sleep.
Eye rubbing is a sign that your baby is ready to take a nap or go to bed. Many times, this action is portrayed in tv shows, movies, and animations. It can lead the viewer to think it’s a Hollywood version of a child’s habits. However, eye rubbing is in fact an authentic action that babies do when they’re sleepy! You may have already noticed, but this can be done at any time. Whether in the car, playing with toys, or watching a show, be on the lookout as much as possible for this telling habit.
As mentioned, every child is different. And ultimately, only you know your child’s personality and what to expect. One tell-tale sign of your baby needing sleep is when their personality changes. Of course, whining and fussing are the obvious culprits, but watch out for ultra-high energy levels or ultra-low energy levels as well. Watching for these two extremes helps to gauge when the meltdown moments are coming. This can be a tricky thing to balance on a daily basis but stay patient as you and your baby learn to communicate with each other.
Along with eye rubbing and personality changes, yawning is a common sign that your baby needs sleep. Yawning occurs when the brain needs more oxygen. This is most likely to occur when the body needs sleep. If you see your little one yawning, consider dimming the lights and walking them around. They just might fall asleep and get the sleep they need to grow.
This might require a little more effort on the end of the parent, but if you suspect your child being sleepy, then try to dim the lights, sit in the rocker, and play some white noise. If your baby is still wide-eyed, they might not be ready for sleep. If they’re wiggly but their eyelids start to close more often, stay strong and trust that they’re sleepy. Eventually the wiggles will stop and they’ll calmly doze off. If you prefer not to rock them to sleep, consider an infant sleeping bag that may help soothe them to sleep. In your day-to-day activities, also keep your eyes open for your baby staring off into space. This might sound silly because it’s a common adult habit. However, babies do it too.
A common sign that your baby is ready to sleep is closed fists. Whether they are tightly closed or not, closed fists are one of the first signs that your baby is ready to catch some Z’s. Your baby is in a new-to-them world, which is exhausting. They’ll likely want to touch everything they can once they learn to grab. In fact, this excites most babies and they won’t want to stop. Having said that, closed fists is a nonverbal that essentially says, “I’m done exploring my surroundings and I’m tired.”
Babies make overall different movements when they are sleepy. These movements are less smooth- looking and more jerk-like. Tilting their heads back, flailing hands, or feet kicking can be a sign of a fussy baby or sleepy baby. In fact, these movements aren’t always done in a fit. They could just be exploring movements in general to help communicate that they’re tired. Tantrums often come after the baby has tried to communicate but was not heard. We were all a baby once; try to stay patient and meet your baby where they’re at.
Whether bottle fed or breastfed, babies usually enjoy nursing before naptime. If they reach for the bottle to self soothe, even without formula in the bottle, they are searching for a way to soothe themselves to sleep. If they reach for you in a way that says they’re hungry, even though they already ate, it’s probably in an effort for comfort. In addition to bottles and breasts, pacifiers can be a form of self-soothing. If your baby enjoys having a pacifier in their mouth, this is another technique to soothe. If you aren’t in a good spot to breastfeed or bottle feed, a pacifier can help fill in the gaps.
Another way your child may be telling you that they’re tired is by pulling at their ears. As we’ve mentioned before, every child is different. While some children usually rub their eyes, some may prefer to pull at their ears. If you see your child fussing at their ear, consider lying them down for a nap. Of course, check the ears to make sure your baby doesn’t have an ear infection or anything of the sort. If it doesn’t look to be the case or the doctor gives the OK, it might be your baby’s way of telling you, “I’m sleepy!”
Babies love exploration. However, when they become sleepy they have a harder time playing with their toys per usual. If they start to seem disinterested or bored with their toys, consider a nap. Of course, always be evaluating their developmental needs so toys properly align with their current development level. However, if their toys are appropriate for their age and they’re still bored, it’s a strong sign that they need sleep.
The transition to parenthood is quite the change. Try to remember that your baby was chosen just for you and that you have what it takes, even on the hard days. You can help yourself and your baby by understanding how to identify when your newborn is ready to sleep. Have confidence in your parenting abilities while helping your baby. Once again, the top signs to look for include:
- Eye rubbing
- Closed Fists