You feel like you couldn’t take it anymore. You are tired, you are sleepy, your head is spinning, your mood is constantly low.
All because your little precious baby is overtired and keeps waking up from his sleep.
Every time you put him down to sleep, you cross your fingers and pray that this sleep would be different from the previous one, and that he could prolong this sleep to a good 2 hours stretch.
But it never works.
Your overtired baby keeps waking up despite your best effort to follow the “best sleeping techniques”.
You’ve had enough of this insanity and sleep deprivation.
You want to break this cycle and help your little one to have a good long sleep so that he wakes up and be a happy little baby again.
But you are stuck. You don’t know what to do.
You’ve been following all the “sleeping advice” from books and experts, but they only leave you an overtired baby.
Read more: When sleep advice goes wrong and leaves me an overtired baby.
I hear you.
I was in the same shoes. Instead of spending my precious free time sleeping to recover, I read and read all the books and articles I could find.
Nothing worked for my son. “I was just a failure”, I told myself.
But honestly, those “sleeping advice” never truly resonated with me. And I felt something wasn’t right. And once I started to trust my instinct, and did what feels right, things started to change.
When your overtired baby keeps waking up, it’s important to remember that your first priority is to help him to sleep and clear his sleep debt. It is not time for good habits, sleeping best practices and sleep training.
We will take a quick peek at the reasons why your overtired baby keeps waking up, and what to do about it.
Why your overtired baby keeps waking up
Have you ever had a horribly tired day, only to find yourself tossing and turning on bed all night and had a really hard time falling and staying asleep?
When your body is physically fatigued from lack of sleep, it releases stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) into your bloodstream.
The more stress hormones get into your bloodstream, the harder for you to relax and sleep.
Same thing applies to your baby. And your baby’s response is even worse.
Because humans have sleep cycles, and we adults know how to continue our sleep cycles throughout the night, but our babies haven’t yet learned that. So after every sleep cycle, your baby wakes up with stress hormones all over his bloodstream and fights himself to sleep again.
This creates a vicious loop: your overtired baby keeps waking up, gets less quality sleep and gets even more tired.
What to do when your overtired baby keeps waking up
One thing I’ve learned the hard way when it comes to soothing an overtired baby is to ditch all sleeping advice you’ve found on the internet.
Those sleep advice might work for some babies and not the others.
When you are trying a new thing, try it in the best conditions.
If you are trying to apply a new sleeping practice to your overtired baby, it’s like you try a new diet yourself when you are sick. It is not going to end well.
Once again, the tips below might be different than everything you’ve read about, but please listen to your mommy instinct for once.
Hold your baby, rock and sing for him
This is so against the “sleeping best practices”, I know.
But to break that vicious loop, it’s important to put your top priority on prolonging his sleep, whatever it takes.
So if your baby sleeps well in your arms, so be it.
If your baby sleeps well when you rock and sing for him, so be it.
Put your baby down when he is completely asleep
I really hate the advice that is to put your baby down when he is still awake. Simply because that action comes with a warning and they don’t tell you that warning.
When you put your overtired baby down when he is still awake, he will feel scared and abandoned, more or less.
This feeling worsened when he was having separation anxieties.
I applied the “put your baby down when he was awake and leave the room” advice for a straight 4 months. I thought it would create a habit for my son to sleep alone in the room.
He cried himself to sleep. And when he was 4 months old, he started to cry whenever I put him down.
That was applying the “best sleeping practices” for 4 months straight. Go figure.
When your baby is overtired, he gets sensitive more than usual and the separation anxieties worsen. If you put him down when he is drowsy but awake, he might get stressed and more cortisol being released, makes it harder for him to relax and settle to sleep.
Feed your baby
Some babies don’t get relaxed completely without being fed. Even it was through bottles or breastfeeding.
For my son Ethan, he only felt relaxed when having a bottle in his mouth. Partly because he had a high demand, and I was short in milk. So having a bottle or being breastfed is the time he felt most relaxed and got to sleep quickly.
Sway your baby gently
I do have a hammock and it was a life-savor. When my arms are tired, I either put him down on the hammock and sway him gently, or I put him on me and we both lay down on the hammock.
Even when he was overtired, sleeping on the hammock often stretched his nap to a good 2 hours.
I even got sleepy while being on the hammock. When it happened, I would call my husband and have him watch over me and my son, so that we are all safe.
If you don’t have room for a hammock, consider something like a Snoo or graco sense2 snooze or 4moms bassinet with auto-swing mode to help soothe your baby.
Read more some articles related to smart bassinets:
Give a light massage
On top of the holding and rocking or swaying, sometimes your baby still has a hard time to relax. And you can try giving him a light massage.
Just gently rub your hands and fingers down (down, not up) through his head and face. Make sure you do it gently and lightly, so that he is relaxed all the way.
Check out the video below for illustration.
According to the CDC, warm lights like orange, yellow have little impact on your circadian rhythm and it is not recommended to leave night light for children under 2 years old because it can potentially affect their sleep and development.
So if you’ve been having a light in your baby’s bedroom, consider turning it off completely.
Play soft music or white noise
Some young babies love white noise. Because it replaces the sound in the womb and creates a familiar feeling to your baby so that he feels safe and relaxed.
But other babies might enjoy soft music more.
Do what works for your baby, either sing lullabies for him, play soft music or white noise to help him relax.
Give your baby a pacifier
Babies are born with a suckling reflex. They need to suckle to be fed, or to feel safe.
Try offering a pacifier to your baby to satisfy this need. But remember, if your baby refuses the pacifier, don’t force him.
This is not the time to introduce new sleeping props, or sleep training. This is the time to help him to sleep.
Read more: How to sleep train a baby with a pacifier.
There you have it.
All the tips to help put your overtired baby back to sleep when he keeps waking up.
Some tips might sound too obvious, it’s because they are. But we parents choose to ignore them over the “sleeping techniques”.
So if you are a mom who is about to lose her cool because your overtired baby keeps waking up, it’s time to ditch your books and infant sleeping tips to listen to your mommy instinct.