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Baby Whisperer: Tired Signs - 7 September

Tired Signs - what are these?

Babies give us wonderful 'tired signs' to let us know when they are ready for bed but knowing these and understanding them is not straight forward for all.

As parents you will often read or hear people say that you should "look for their tired signs", looking or listening to your baby to see what they are telling you through physical and vocal behavior.

Babies have several tired signs, yawning, jerky movements, grizzly or crying sounds, 'wide eyes' or in some cases, arching of the back and screaming.

Just knowing these signs as being your baby's cues for being tired is often not enough as sometimes we see yawns from a baby only minutes after they have got up from a sleep and post their feed.

Along side these tired signs I believe it great to have some kind of guidance that gives you a rough idea of how long a baby should be awake and the progression of these awake times as they grow.

Sleeping Patterns

Just as you get use to your new baby's sleeping pattern or establish a routine it is time to change again as your baby develops so quickly over the first year of life.

Knowing how many sleeps in day is advised and at what ages they change patterns is a helpful guide to make your days easier to manage.

Age and stages:

1-4 weeks of age
Your baby should be sleeping most of the day and should be awake for 1 hour stretches, including their feed and interaction time.
Sleeping - 2 to 3hrs between feeds (on a 3-4hr routine), 4 daytime sleeps.

4-8 weeks of age
Your baby should be able to cope with having a little floor play by now and their awake time should be between 1-1 1/4 hrs. 
Sleeping - 2-3hrs between feeds (on a 3-4hr routine). 3-4 daytime sleeps.

8-12 weeks of age
Your baby will be showing signs of wanting to stay awake for longer periods by now, especially as the day goes on.
Sleeping - 3 day sleeps (on a 3 1/2 to 4 hr routine).

3-4 months of age -Your baby will still need 3 sleeps a day but the time of these will depend on your individual routines and activities.
Sleeping - 3 day sleeps (on a 3 1/2 to 4 hr routine).

4-6 months of age - Your baby will be having more awake time now and your 3 sleeps are day will be changing their times.
Sleeping - 3 day sleeps (roughly a 4hr routine).

7-12 months of age
Your baby will be requiring only 2 sleeps a day for most of the week.
Sleeping - 2 sleeps a day, morning and afternoon.

The Baby Whisperer's tips

- Babies from birth until roughly 4-6wks of age should only be awake for 1hr to 1hr 15min's for the majority of the day.

- 1 yawn in the 1st few weeks of life is my 'cue' to start the process of putting a baby down to bed before they get over-tired but as they grow I start to experiment with acting on the 2nd or 3rd yawn (or tired sign) and putting them to bed a little later than previously.

- Babies who have been settled but then start sleeping for short sleep in the day are often put down still after their parents see the 1st 'tired sign', forgetting to process with their time awake as they grow week by week.

- The 'wide eyed' tired sign is very commonly misread as being an alert of 'wide awake' baby and therefore this is where knowing roughly how long a baby should be awake for at their ages and stages is helpful.

- If your baby is hard to settle then I suggest you put some time aside to watch your baby during their time awake, looking for the tired signs mentioned.  See how well they settle when you start reading these signs.  Once you know roughly (through these tired signs) how long your baby can cope with being awake for you will not have to spend every moment of their time awake watching them closely as not to miss the 'window of opportunity' in getting them into bed before they are over-tired.

Where to go for further info

Sharlene Poole
Little Miracles Postnatal Care Ltd

Talk with your Midwife or Plunket Nurse

Sharlene Poole's Baby Whispering DVD