How many times have you been told to “watch for you babies tired cues & get them down for a nap or into bed before they get overtired”?
I’m sure you have been told that the “overtired cues” are things like:
· Looking away
· Becoming frustrated
· Jerky movements
· Clinched fists
· Not interested in feeding or you
Nap time!! Right? Those well-meaning people around you also might be telling you your baby is overtired and needs a nap.
How many times have you then tried to offer them a sleep and it just becomes a battle? It feels like its winding them up more than it use too….
How many times have you then found yourself trying for 30mins, 45mins or even an hour to get your baby to take sleep because the cues were there? Its’ stressful and confusing right?
This is when we as mums start to doubt our abilities and think we are just not getting it right. But it’s more about our baby’s normal cognitive developmental and their need for more sensory nourishment in their day and not that you’re getting it wrong..
For the early weeks these cues can indicate true tiredness but as our babies mature in their cognitive development, these so called “tired cues” might not be about sleep so much anymore.The trouble is we can’t blame over-tiredness for all “fussy” behaviours all of the time. Babies, like us, feel other things in their day, other than the feelings of tiredness. So if we understand normal baby behaviour and what occurs in development & why, we as parents can be more curious about what our babies are trying to communicate with us. Instead of defaulting to always trying to put our babies down for a nap, when possibly this isn’t the reason for their fussy behaviour.
Any time after 3-4mths old (approx..) our babies brains start to go through the next big brain development and new neural pathways are being laid down to learn more about the world around them, including how to interact and engage with those in their life.
They start to need more sensory nourishment experiences in their day than they ever did before, more awake times to learn about the world around them and more opportunities to engage with you and others in their life. This might mean they want to be outside more, going on walks in front pack or push chair, being social in different environments, watching and engaging with nature and learning from you through play. Although as a result, sleep can all of a sudden feel like it takes a backseat.
Their eyesight will also become clearer around this time too and you might have noticed your baby becoming a little more “nosey or curious” about people moving around the room, for example. Another point to mention too is their overall sleep needs in 24hrs can also reduce by as much as 2-3hrs from around 4-6mths of age, which some of you may have already noticed i.e. naps are becoming more difficult to achieve in the day or some might be shorter than they were. This too is normal infant sleep behaviour and needs to occur for the next step in their cognitive development. It just means we as parents need to view their baby’s cues slightly different and with a more curious mind into what your baby might be trying to communicate with you.
Although for some babies, all this need to have increased activity can be difficult to navigate. Depending on your baby’s temperament, this change in brain development, can affect the ability to take sleep. Some babies can find it difficult to regulate themselves to a calm enough state to be able to take sleep easily after this increased activity and possible longer awake times. This might require a longer calming time frame and co-regulation from the parent or the return of napping on the parent in the day in the short term, to facilitate building confidence and reassurance in the baby during this time.
“There are many strategies you can try if you find yourself in this situation, so please email me for support if this is you”.
There are endless reasons why your baby might be fussing, crying or unsettled in the day/night. Your baby might be feeling:
· Bored & needs more sensory nourishment
· Overwhelmed by the noise and/or too many people
· Scratchy tags on their jump suit or the fabric is irritating
· Eczema itching esp at night
· Their “love tank” needs a top up i.e. needs a cuddle
· Too hot or too cold
· Disturbing smell i.e. Grandma’s perfume is too strong
· Thirsty and/or hungry
· Family stress
· Trapped wind or gas
· Uncomfortable & needs to get off their back
· Frightened or scared
· Tight nappy or clothes
· Developmental milestones i.e. about to crawl
· Full wet nappy
· Need to connect with caregiver
· To bright and/or too loud
· Constipated and/or teething
So if we look beyond the behaviour and ask ourselves “what else could be going on here”
we are being more responsive to our babies needs and most likely to reduce the unsettled behaviour more quickly.
So experiment today!! When your baby gets fussy, be curious about this. Try sensory nourishment first before offering sleep. For example – Step outside (if the sun is shining), walk around the back garden, show them the trees, touch the grass, pat the dog, talk to them about what are experiencing and then after 15-20mins if these behaviours are still presenting themselves offer a nap then. You might find they settle quicker due to the previous 15-20mins that you offered them for learning.
BE MORE CURIOUS TODAY!!!