Experts agree that a consistent bedtime routine is necessary to get your little one to sleep well, but if you're not sure of the ways your baby is trying to tell you they're sleepy, you may be putting them to bed too early or when they are past the point of exhaustion and gaining their second wind. (Which is like the cruelest joke Mother Nature has ever played, am I right?)
Luckily, it's not like babies are trying to be coy or secretive — they're pretty open about sharing how they feel. The trick is recognizing that the way your baby is acting is because they're sleepy and not, you know, just being a baby. The University of Michigan noted that your child's ideal bedtime is just before their sleepy cues start becoming evident. Waiting until your child is screaming with exhaustion or passing out on you? No good.
In fact, the more tired your baby gets, the harder it is for them to fall asleep. According to the Baby Sleep Site, when your baby is overtired, their stress-response system is activated and stress hormones flood their blood stream, making it difficult for them to relax and calm down.
But knowing these seven ways your baby is trying to tell you they're sleepy can eliminate that over-tired exhaustion from taking over the bedtime routine. Note when the cues are happening so you can establish a bedtime that makes sense for your little one and ensures they get as much sleep as possible.
1They Yawn. . . A Lot
It's a cliche, but it's true. Although babies can obviously yawn even if they aren't sleepy, Dr. Alan Greene wrote for The New York Times that yawning can be a tired cue from babies. He noted that sometimes babies yawn when they are overstimulated and trying to relax, which can also help them drift off to sleep. But Parents also suggested to look for yawning as a way to tell that your little one is ready to nod off.
2They Rub Their Eyes, Ears, & Face
Whether they are rubbing their eyes and ears with their hands or rubbing their whole face on your shoulder, Parenting noted that this can be a definite sleepy cue. Rubbing eyes seems like a no-brainer, but apparently a baby's ears can be very sensitive and little ones find comfort in rubbing them or pulling on them when they are sleepy.
3They Are Physically Slowing Down
You know when your kid starts winding down at the end of the night? Their running isn't as full-force and they seem to be running out of juice? The University of Michigan noted that the physical act of slowing down can mean your child is ready for bed and starting to lose steam. Act on that moment so that you aren't pushing them to brush their teeth and put on pajamas when they are physically exhausted.
4The Become Fussy & Demanding
The National Sleep Foundation noted that a fussy baby can often mean your little one's ready to head off to sleep. It's a little different than crying and involves your child being demanding as they have a hard time getting comfortable and simply aren't satisfied with their current surroundings.
5They Are Clingy
A huge trick to realizing my own daughter was sleepy was when she refused to be put down and wanted to be held all day long. According to the Baby Sleep Site, being clingy is a common sign of a tired baby. You may find that your baby won't allow you to lay her down or will hold on tighter when they know you're about to put them down.
6They Are Whining & Crying
Babies cry for a lot of reasons, but whining and crying can signal sleepiness over hunger or pain. Parenting noted that the cry may be a softer version of a distressed cry and that if you notice it happening when your baby's been awake for a few hours, that's more than likely what the issue is.
7They've Lost Interest In People & Playing
All of a sudden, your kid has no interest in the game you were playing together or sitting with your partner. What gives? Parents suggested that if your baby is losing interest in the people around them and playing, they're probably getting sleepy. Just like physically slowing down, that fatigue can make them irritable around others and their body wants a break from the stimulation of play.