I think most parents will agree that the time before your infant is able to successfully communicate with you is arguably the most confounding. Whether it's your fifth child or your first, it's almost a parenting rite of passage to struggle with figuring out what they want and if you're doing the right thing. Are they hungry, tired, or something else all together? Thankfully, there are plenty of ways your baby is trying to tell you they want a nap that you can totally pick up on with ease. Amazingly, your child might not even be intentionally sending out these signals, but once you know what to look for, you might even be a step ahead of the game.
What can be even more frustrating is when your child fights you every step of the way, when all you're trying to do is let them get the rest they so clearly need. If I had a dollar for every time my son struggled to keep his eyes open while I desperately tried to lull him into slumber, I would be typing this on a much nicer laptop. So how can you tell if your baby actually wants a nap? Just check out these simple signs and hopefully sleep will be in your and your baby's near future.
1. They Avoid Stimulation
If your little one is feeling tired, they're probably looking for a little peace and quiet. According to The Baby Sleep Site, babies who are ready for a nap will turn their face away from stimulation of any kind. They can't tune out bright lights and loud noises the same way adults can. So if they're avoiding those types of situations, then they might be ready for a nap.
2. There's A Pattern
Your baby is probably much smarter than you give them credit because they're actually sending you signals about their sleep. Dr. Deb Lonzer, chair of the department of regional pediatrics for the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital, told Parents that parents should, "see if each day starts to have a similar pattern." Make note for a week or so and see if a schedule has developed. Chances are if your baby consistently falls asleep at a certain time, then that's likely when they'll want a nap.
3. They're Into Texture
If your baby looks like they just went to a music festival and are totally into feeling things against their skin, they might be tired. In an interview with Parenting, Dr. Linda Acredolo, a professor emeritus of psychology at University of California, explained that, "before 6 months, babies rub their faces against something if they are tired." It's basically the infant version of how you might rub your eyes when you're tired.
4. They've Got The Look
To tell if an adult is tired, you can easily see signs of drowsiness. But what does that look like for a baby? According to the Raising Children Network, an informational site from the Australian Government Department of Social Services, a tired baby may have fluttering eyelids or difficulty focusing. Essentially, if their eyes aren't looking too alert, they're probably ready for nap time.
5. They Assume The Fetal Position
Most creatures, when they're preparing to sleep, have a tendency to coil up and babies aren't that different. As Plunket, an incorporated society in New Zealand that provides a range of free health services to children, has noted, clenching their fists or tensing up their body are signs your baby wants to sleep. It makes sense, too. If I'm tired, all I want to do is bundle up in a little ball and get comfy. So it's not surprising that your little one would curl up when they're sleepy as well.
6. Their Cry Is Different
Although newborns seem to cry more often than not, their cries could be telling you something. According to the experts at Parents, a sleepy baby's cry may sound, "breathy, helpless, can be intermittent, and is more easily soothed than most others." So keep an ear out for this particular type of whimper because your little one is probably trying to tell you they want a nap.
7. They're Like Velcro
Even if you're used to baby-wearing, if your infant seems like they're more attached than usual, they could be tired. As The Baby Sleep Site noted, an infant who's sleepy, "will become clingy with mom or dad, or with a caregiver." Whether you choose to hold them until they drift off or you prefer swaddling to give them a sense of security, a baby who's stuck to you like glue is trying to let you know that the crib is calling their name.
8. They Look Like Spies
You know how in spy movies the undercover operative will tug on an ear or give a discreet nod as a signal to another agent? Babies are basically tiny spies. As Lozner told Parents, "when they get tired, they often yawn or pull on their ears." So if you're not playing baseball or starring in a suspense film, your baby is attempting to let you know they're sleepy.
9. They're Pulling A Grumpy Cat
Babies can make many different expressions and it can be difficult to figure out what they all mean. Thankfully, facial cues that mean they're sleepy are fairly easy to read. As the Raising Children Network noted, a wrinkled forehead, look of worry, or frown indicate an infant is ready for dream land. So turn their frown upside down by putting them down for a nap.