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Read Your Baby's Sleepy Signals

By Elizabeth Pantley
From The No-Cry Sleep Solution (McGraw-Hill) by Elizabeth Pantley

A good way to encourage good sleep is to get familiar with your baby's sleepy signals, and put her down to sleep as soon as she seems tired. A baby cannot put herself to sleep, nor can she understand her own sleepy signs.

A baby who is encouraged to stay awake when her body is craving sleep is typically an unhappy, fussy baby. Over time, the pattern develops into sleep deprivation, which further complicates and interferes with your baby's developing sleep maturity.

Pia, mother of eight-month-old Carrson talks about this problem, "I discovered that I had been putting Carrson to bed purely by the clock, not at all by his tiredness. Once I changed this dynamic and began identifying his sleepy signals he fell asleep easier and slept longer."

Watch the clock, too!

Most newborns can only handle one or two hours of wakefulness at a time. A three-month-old gets tired after two to three hours of awake time. A one-year-old can be cheerful for about three to four hours, and a two-year-old about five to six hours. Once your child has passed his happy wakefulness stage he'll quickly become overtired. He'll then be easily overstimulated and find it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Keep Reading

Find that magic moment

Using the clock as a guide, and your child's sleepy signals as indicators, you can find the magic moment when your baby is tired, but not overtired. When you witness those signs it's a quick but calm trip right to bed - don't launch into a prolonged pre-bed routine since your child may then get a second wind!

Typical sleepy signals

Every child is unique and has his own sleepy signs, and you can watch and learn these. Your child may demonstrate one or more of these signs that tell you he is tired and ready to sleep - now:

reducing his level of movement and activity
becoming more quiet
losing interest in people, toys and playtime
rubbing his eyes
looking glazed or unfocused
having a more relaxed jaw, chin and mouth (droopy looking)
becoming whiny and cranky
fussing or crying
losing patience or having tantrums
lying down or slumping in his seat
watching television or a movie with a blank expression
caressing a lovey or blanket
asking for a pacifier, bottle or to nurse

Your child may demonstrate one or two of these sleepy signs, or even something entirely different. The signs may change at each stage of development. The key is to watch your child and encourage him to go to sleep when he is tired.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Sleep Solution (McGraw-Hill) by Elizabeth Pantley

© Elizabeth Pantley
Elizabeth Pantley is a author and parent educator and frequently quoted expert who presents lectures across the United States. She is the mother of four children. Check out her website at! Her newsletter, "In Touch With Elizabeth Pantley," provices valuable parenting tidbits and advice, plus advance notice of book releases and appearances. Sign up at her site!


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