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14 Ways To Get Your Overtired Baby To Sleep Quickly

I know why you’re here! Your baby is so fussy, rubbing their eyes, not wanting to be set down, and as their mom you just know that they are extremely exhausted. So why won’t they just FALL ASLEEP?! 

My friend, you probably have a case of an overtired baby. This is when the baby becomes too tired to fall asleep and the stress hormones kick in. 

This stress response raises cortisol levels and adrenaline will skyrocket and they can’t seem to settle down. 


You might be able to set them down for a short period before they shoot those eyes back open and start the screaming process all over again. 

This can be one of the hardest parts of parenting in my book! Because it leads to sleep deprivation for everyone in the house! And I don’t know about you, but when I am low on sleep, I tend to turn into a little bit of a zombie monster. 

BUT. I have good news for you! There is something you can do to end this bad cycle of overtiredness. Hang in there mama! You need those restful nights to come back just as much as your baby does. 

So stick with it and pretty soon you will have a calm baby with good sleep habits! 

Signs of Overtiredness

Is your baby actually overtired? Or is there something else bothering him or her? 

Overtiredness can look like a lot of other things too. Because let’s face it… babies only have one way to tell us something is wrong… crying. So, check these things first before you just assume they are in the overtired cycle. 

First, check to make sure they don’t have a fever. Sickness is always one to keep babies from sleeping and sometimes as a tired parent, we forget to just feel their head and realize they might be feeling unwell. Give them some Tylenol and viola! Back to sleep you go! 

Next, is baby too hot or too cold? Check their clothing, temp of the room, if a fan is blowing on them, etc. 

If everything else seems to be fine, then your baby is probably overtired. This is a miserable place for both you and baby to be and somewhere you want to get out of quickly. Basically, it means that the baby has become so tired that he or she cannot fall asleep. 

Here are some signs of tiredness that you might be dealing with an overtired baby: 

1. Baby is taking short naps 

2. They are rising in the wee early morning hours 

3. They have a hard time self-soothing once you put them down to sleep 

4. Baby wakes every hour 

5. Baby falls asleep in your arms but wakes immediately after being set down 

6. Has an “overtired cry”. An overtired baby’s cry sound is different than their normal cry and can often be more piercing and nasally. 

7. Their awake times were too long throughout the day 

8. They seemed really tired at first, but you waited a little too long so now they are smiling and “babbling” again 

9. Irritability 

10. You’re baby is fussy. (If you’re looking for some other tips on how to calm a crying baby, check out this blog post on how to help a fussy baby.)

11. They are going through a sleep regression (usually happens at 4 months, 8 months and 11 months) 

This is all great information, but you have a screaming baby either in your arms or in the other room who needs to go to sleep NOW. Let me give you some quick tips to try because one of the most important things is you get your baby to sleep as soon as possible. 

How To Get An Overtired Baby To Sleep

Mom trying to comfort crying baby

1. Go For A Car Ride

If you are a new mom with only one child, this one might actually be feasible (as opposed to having lots of other children to take care of too). Sometimes baby just needs a change of scenery. Put them in the car and drive them around until they fall asleep. 

Then transfer them to their bed once home again. Be SO careful not to wake them up or you might have to start the process all over again. 

If your baby doesn’t like the car, then have no fear! Read on for further tips to solve these sleep problems. 

2. Swaddle

If age-appropriate for your baby’s development, try a swaddle. This means that your baby is younger than 6 months and can’t roll over yet. 

A swaddle will help calm a baby because their arms aren’t waking them up due to reflexes. And they will feel cozy just as they did when in utero. 

3. Allow Your Baby To Sleep In Your Arms

Yes, this is frowned upon when sleep training. But you need sleep and baby needs sleep in order to even think about that. Keep in mind, the less sleep you get, the harder sleep training will be. So sleep training can wait until tomorrow. 

So hold your baby in the rocking chair or on your bed and maybe even doze off for a quick snooze of your own. 

4. Contact Nap

This is similar to having them sleep in your arms, but involves more skin to skin contact. You can hold them on your chest or in your arms for this one. 

Sometimes just your scent and presence can help soothe them enough to fall asleep. If you want more information, head over to this page for all things contact naps

Just take a deep breath. Even though it seems like this is going to last forever, this phase will pass. Soak up all the snuggles because pretty soon they will be going to kindergarten! 

5. Bounce On An Exercise Ball

This one can actually be soothing for both you and baby. If you have a yoga ball, grab it and start bouncing. 

Not only is it helpful for baby, but it gives your quads a break from bouncing up and down for long periods of time. Again, not ideal when sleep training, but it will help for one night. 

When I was going through this with my two girls, one of the best pieces of advice I received that I had to keep reminding myself was: “bad habits take 3 days to make and 7 days to break”. 

So as long as you don’t do anything for more than 3 days, you won’t form bad habits. And if you DO one of these things for longer than 3 days, give yourself grace when trying to break the bad habit because it takes at least 7 days. 

6. Let Baby Sleep Their Preferred Way Until They Are Caught Up On Sleep

Remember, one of the most important things is that baby gets enough sleep. Their sleep needs are a priority (even over getting into a good rhythm and routine). Tired babies need help and that’s ok for now. 

If baby only sleeps in your arms, go with it for a little while.

If they prefer to sleep next to you, do it. If baby wants to be rocked to sleep, do it. If they like to sleep with soft music, turn it on. 

7. Start An Age Appropriate Routine

Routines are key. You might not be able to start one at this exact moment with a screaming overtired baby, but give it a try tomorrow. 

Our favorite nap time routine that we have done with all of our kids is this: 

1. Turn on white noise

2. Turn on a lamp (not a bright overhead light because it’s too stimulating) 

3. Close all the blinds (use blackout curtains if you have them. Blocking out all light helps cue the baby to sleep quicker and longer) 

4. Read a calming book on the rocking chair (our favorite is goodnight moon. It’s rhythmic words help soothe baby before rest) 

5. Swaddle baby (or put in sleep sack) 

6. Turn off the light and sing one lullaby while rocking 

7. Lay down in bed drowsy but awake (super important so they can put themselves to sleep and learn to self settle) 

Our Favorite bedtime routine: 

1. Bath time! This is the main difference between nap time and bedtime. Try using a calming baby soap.

2. Close ALL the blinds in the house. This signals to baby that it’s nighttime and “tricks” their brains into thinking it’s not light outside anymore.

3. Talk in calm and quiet voices.

4. Lotion massage (baby lotion smells SO good! So lather up.) 

5. Sleep sack or swaddle

6. Scripture story or books

7. Bottle or breast feed baby while singing songs (but make sure they stay awake while doing it) 

8. Rock baby while singing one last song 

9. Put baby down drowsy but awake (we use a pacifier to help self soothe) 

8. Put Baby To Sleep In A Dark Room

This one is key! Babies have a difficult time falling asleep if it is bright because they can see everything. Especially if you have an older baby, they might be curious as to what is around them. 

In order to ensure healthy sleep habits, try putting them to sleep in a dark room. I’m talking like pitch black. Put your hand in front of your face and if you can’t see it then that’s perfect! 

Black-out curtains are a great option. If you don’t have any on hand and need to hit up Amazon tomorrow, just simply put up black construction paper or a cardboard box to cover the window. That should do the trick!

9. Go Outside For A Walk

This seems counterproductive “but then they’ll be wide awake and unable to sleep”. But, they are already awake and screaming, so you might as well get outside and breathe some fresh air. 

This is beneficial to both you and baby. It will help your baby to settle down to see other things and give her a break from trying her hardest to resist sleep. And it will help you if you got worked up from so much bouncing. 

After the walk, try going back in and starting the bedtime routine again, as if you had never done it yet. This will help signal baby that it’s time to sleep. 

10. Rock Baby In A Stroller

Can’t go outside because it’s winter? Or don’t feel safe at night walking around your neighborhood? No worries. 

Try putting baby in the stroller and walking around the house or apartment. You could even sit on a chair and rock them back and forth in the stroller (less work for you). Turn on some calming lullaby music or use a sound machine to help settle baby. 

11. Wear Baby

You might just need to get something done and get your mind off of trying to force baby to sleep. Sometimes when we stop focusing on getting them to fall asleep, that’s when they fall asleep the fastest. 

Put baby in a carrier and start walking around the house doing your nighttime tasks (dishes, laundry, clean up, etc). Baby will feel like she is inside you again going around to do the nighttime routines. 

The simple walking around feels comforting to her because she did that for 9 months! She knows how you walk and it’s soothing. Pretty soon you’ll look down and she will be lulled right to sleep. 

12. Feed Or Nurse

Again, this one is not advised when sleep training, but desperate times call for desperate measures. If baby is still having a difficult time, feed him. He might just need some comfort and reassurance to know that everything is okay. 

His cortisol levels have been so worked up that he is in fight-or-flight mode and very stressed. He needs something familiar and calming to help him get down from that high emotional state. 

So feed him and sing him some songs. All five of his senses will be used in a positive way helping him to calm down enough to sleep. Touching mom, hearing mom’s voice, tasting the comforting milk, seeing mom up close, and smelling the familiar milk and his mommy. 

13. Give Baby A Bath

Warm water has a calming effect on babies. It settles their tummies and helps them to focus again on something other than sleep. The water will relax them to a point that allows them to forget how tired they are. 

After they come out of a warm bath, their body temperature will start to cool down helping them to fall asleep quicker and easier. 

Then try a baby massage with calming lotion and white noise in the background. This will help baby to feel prepared to sleep in a calm environment. 

14. Remain Calm

This is probably the most important tip we can offer! If mom isn’t calm, baby isn’t calm. Our kids can sense when our stress levels get high and they will start to reflect how we are acting. 

If we are tense and bouncing them quickly, then they will be tense and unable to relax. 

We are focused on them falling to sleep ASAP, they will resist falling to sleep because we are so stressed about it. 

When we talk loudly to them, they will cry harder. 

So make sure you are calm before helping your overtired baby. If that means passing baby off to your spouse for a few minutes while you take a breather, or even setting baby down to cry in the crib while you sit on the couch… then do it. 

Whatever it takes to make sure you are calm is ok! Your baby needs a present mother who knows how to calm herself before helping him do the same. 

If you need a good laugh about the whole situation… maybe reading some of these baby sleep quotes can at least help you not cry and know that you aren’t alone in this crazy sleep world. 

How To Get Out Of The Overtired Cycle 

These are great tips to help you get through the day or night, but they are not sustainable. Nor do you want to develop a negative sleep association with any of these. Here are some tips to try to help resolve this problem FOR GOOD and get back to the good days when you’ll have everyone in the family sleeping “like babies” (non overtired ones) again. 

1. Blackout curtains 

2. Regular Naps 

3. White Noise machine 

4. Establish a bedtime routine that starts early enough that they don’t get overtired 

5. Make sure baby’s sleep schedule is age appropriate 

6. Give them a consistent nap 

7. Follow baby’s sleep cues 


Thursday 26th of October 2023

I was babysitting my niece's daughter, and she is a horrible sleeper. I loved your tip about talking a walk in the stroller. It worked and she had a great nap.

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