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Yes or No to following tired cues

tired cues

All new parents know that good sleep quality is vital for the healthy growth and development of their new baby and if you are a new parent, I’m sure you’ve been told about the importance of watching out for tired signs and sleep cues.

Many health professionals recommend parents watch their little one for signs of tiredness and put them down for a nap as soon as they see the first tired cues to prevent an overtired baby who may then become impossible to put down.

Tired Cues include:



Rubbing their eyes or face

Red Eyebrows

Becoming quiet and not wanting to play

Becoming hyperactive


Waving their arms and legs

Clenched fists

Glazing over


Hard to distract or keep happy

Now, if you’re like me, that list will send you into a tailspin because, let’s be honest, babies do all of the above all the time. Let’s be honest any of these signs can be observed at any time during the day by most if not all, babies. Tell me have you seen your baby yawn 20 minutes after waking up from a nap, or maybe they have just zoned out after a big milk feed. Does it make sense to rush them back to bed now because you have observed these signs with them?

Hell no.! During awake times babies will have little waves of tiredness. These are like our 10 am need for a caffeine hit or our 3 pm slump. They come, they go, and we move on until we get to the evening and have built up enough sleep pressure to have a good night’s sleep.

This can be similarly observed with babies. Tired waves with babies are typically approximately 20 minutes 40 minutes, one hour and 10 minutes 2 hours 2.5 hours and 3 hours

The trick to mastering understanding your baby’s sleep cues and tired signs is to look for them around age-appropriate awake windows. For example, a 4-month-old baby’s awake window is approximately 2 hours. So if your 4-month-old is showing tired signs at 20 minutes, 40 minutes or an hour and 10 minutes, they are unlikely to be ready to go down for a good nap and may just be going through a tired wave, ride out the next 10 minutes, and you will typically find that with a little distraction your baby moves past the tired wave and continues with their day.  Now closer to the two-hour mark, if you start observing some of these tired cues, I recommend that you start your bedtime routine and place your baby down for a nap.

Gradually use the guide for awake windows, and with a little time, you will start to recognise your own babies’ tired cues because not all babies will do all of the tired cues in the list. They may only do one or two of them.


Start with some structured guidance – Gently nudge your baby to the age-appropriate awake window.

Observe your baby’s behaviour closer to the recommended awake times.

Follow a  bedtime routine that is calm, consistent, repetitive and reassuring to them so they find it easier to fall asleep.

Watch and learn from your baby, using the tired cues AND awake windows as a guide. Over the next few days/weeks, your baby’s tired behaviours will become much clearer to you. Now you can confidently follow your child’s cues to find a timing that works for you.

Review – remember that babies grow and what worked for you last month may not work so well this month. Every couple of weeks, I recommend checking in with the awake windows and seeing if you need to adjust your timing for your little one.

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