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When Tiredness turns to Tears

When Tiredness Turns to Tears

by Caroline Radford

We recently had the pleasure of entertaining guests with a four month old baby boy.  Baby happily babbled to each new face for several hours before finally self destructing into hysterical screaming.  At this point Gorgeous Mum said “should I take him to PMH (Princess Margaret Hospital), do you think it could be his appendix??” 

We witness overtired children constantly and our first thought is never “they are tired”.  Usually it is a more adult, problem solving diagnosis of a medical/behavioural/hereditary nature.

One of the most basic human needs – along with food – is sleep! 

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After hunger, the second most likely cause of crying/tantrums is tiredness. 

The trick is recognising the moment of tiredness and offering a sleep before overtiredness sets in.

When your baby shows you body language signs of tiredness, it is the time to let them settle.  If you miss these cues they will begin to cry, become more and more overtired and more difficult to settle.  It may take a few days for you to reach this overtired point, but it will only take your baby a few hours.

So, how do you get the timing right? 

You can either:

  • Watch for tired signs and act on these,
    or
  • Watch the clock and settle your baby in a timed routine

What are tired signs?

Most babies will display physical signs of tiredness before they begin to grizzle and cry.  If you see these signs, start settling them.  If you wait for your child to begin to grizzle or cry you will need to help them settle their crying before they are able to go to sleep.

Make a note of the tired signs that are particular to your baby.

Your baby may display some or all of these:

-      rubbing their eyes
-      redness around their eyes or eyebrows
-      yawning
-      pulling at ears
-      clenched fists
-      jerky body movements with stiffened arms and legs
-      grimace / frown on face / furrowed brow
-      disengages from eye contact / staring / becomes glassy eyed

Tired signs of an older baby are:

-      clumsy movements (falling over if crawling or walking)
-      clingy
-      becoming noisy
-      uncooperative
-      frustrated with what they are doing
-      increasing activity level

Timed approach

If your baby is chronically tired they will be showing signs of tiredness all the time.  Also, it is not uncommon to miss tired signs because they can be fleeting.  When the signs have been missed your baby will engage with another activity for a short period and then show tired signs again, but these signs will become stronger.  This is easily confused with boredom (which is rare in babies). 

If you have not seen any tired sign s settle your baby using the following guide.

Nb: Awake time means the time from when they last woke up from a sleep and includes time spent feeding.

0-3 months – settle after 1.5 hours of awake time

3-6 months – settle after 2 hours of awake time

6-12 months – settle after 2.5 hours of awake time

For more information about supporting sleep in babies and children 0-5 years visit www.carolinesangels.com.au or call Caroline Radford directly on 0400 840 303.

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