If you’ve heard about sleepy cues but want to know all about them, you’re in the right place!
Have you ever felt that getting your newborn to sleep is more difficult than doing your taxes while simultaneously trying to land a commercial aircraft? If so, you’re not alone. Newborns can be very tricky, and it’s super hard to know what they need and when they want it.
Mostly due to the fact that they are grossly lacking in their ability to effectively communicate their needs. However, there is a secret to knowing exactly when the perfect time to get your newborn to sleep is. And it’s basically foolproof. And yes, I’m going to tell you what it is.
Here’s the secret: Newborn sleepy cues
These beautiful little signs will tell you exactly when to put your newborn to sleep so they fall asleep easily and quickly.
In this post I’m going to break down exactly what newborn sleepy cues are, how they are different from tired cues, how to effectively use sleepy cues to their maximum potential, and what to do if you miss the sleepy cues.
So let’s dive in!
What are newborn sleepy cues?
Newborn sleepy cues are the signs your baby gives that indicate they are ready to go to sleep. Sounds pretty obvious, but boy are they easy to miss!
Many parents mistake these cues for boredom, and start ramping up the entertainment. But that is actually the worst thing you can do, as it will push your little one into the “overtired” stage, and let me tell you, there is nothing less fun than trying to get an overtired baby to sleep. (But if you do find yourself in this position, (as we all have at some point or another) I have some tips for you here.)
Sleepy cues are the very FIRST signs that your newborn is becoming tired and is ready for sleep. Think of these sleepy cues as the gas light in your vehicle that comes on to tell you that the tank is getting low on gas. If you miss (or ignore) the warning, then you can find yourself on the side of the road in quite the predicament.
The goal is definitely to avoid finding yourself with an empty tank of gas, and the same applies to your newborn. Catch those sleepy cues early so you have time to get them to sleep before the tank runs out!
So what exactly are these elusive sleepy cues? Read on my friend.
The difference between newborn sleepy cues and tired cues
Baby sleepy cues and tired cues are not the same thing. And thinking they are is a common misconception among parents. It’s knowing and understanding the difference between these two cues that will make ALL the difference in getting your newborn to sleep in a pleasant and timely manner.
Parents often mistake signs such as rubbing eyes and fussing to mean their baby is ready for sleep, however these signs actually mean your baby is becoming (or already is!) overtired. Once a newborn passes through their sleepy stage, they become wired (also known as getting their “second wind”). And their little brains just can’t handle being overtired, which means it becomes very hard to get them to sleep.
So your first tool in making sure this doesn’t happen to your little one, is to understand the difference between sleepy cues and tired cues.
As previously discussed, sleepy cues are the first signs that your baby is ready for sleep. Some baby sleepy cues are:
- Eyes are staring off into the distance
- A calm, peaceful demeanor
- A subtle yawn
- Reddish hue on their eyebrows and eyelids.
Check out my Instagram Reel on identifying sleepy cues:
Tired cues are signs that your baby is either getting dangerously close to being overtired, or they unfortunately already are. And it’s only going to get more and more difficult to get your baby to sleep.
Tired cues are:
- Rubbing their eyes
- Tugging on their ears
- Avoiding eye contact
- Arching their back
- Getting rigid
- Jerky flailing limbs
How to use newborn sleepy cues for better sleep
Now that you know what newborn sleepy cues are, you want to be on the lookout for them so you know when to put your baby to sleep. However, what makes using sleepy cues the MOST effective is using them in conjunction with age appropriate wake windows.
Wake windows are the period of time when babies are awake, between the times they are sleeping. So a wake window starts when they wake up from either nighttime sleep or a nap, and ends when they go back to sleep for the next nap (or bedtime).
Newborns have SUPER short wake windows: 45-90 minutes, with 60 minutes being the general rule. That’s right. It seems crazy, but newborns need a lot of sleep (aim for 18 hrs per 24 hours) and do better with short wake windows.
(Note that the last wake window before bed is usually more like 1.5-2 hours.)
So the BEST way to know when it’s time to get your newborn to sleep is to watch the clock AND watch for sleepy cues. As soon as you start approaching the 45-minute mark, keep an eye on your baby to discern their cues, and once they start showing some sleepy cues, BAM! Time for bed!
What to do if you miss the newborn sleepy cues
It happens to the best of us. I promise. Even if you are an experienced parent, it’s easy for time to get away from you, or life to get in the way. So if you’ve missed the sleepy cues and find yourself with an overtired newborn that is fighting sleep HARD, here’s what to do:
- Learn from this so you can avoid it happening again in the future
- Pull out ALL the stops to get them to sleep
And I mean ALL the stops. Get your baby to a quiet dark place and implement these calming techniques STAT!
- Turn on the sound machine
- Make sure it’s dark with no other distractions such as blue light!
- Swaddle your newborn
- Offer a pacifier
- Rock/bounce/swing them to soothe them to sleep
- Employ my eyebrow stroke! (See the Instagram Reel of my eyebrow stroke below)
And do whatever else works to get your newborn to sleep. Remember, you can’t spoil a newborn, so helping them to sleep is totally fine, and it won’t ruin future independent sleep!
Recap on Newborn Sleepy Cues
So now you know, the optimal time to get your newborn to sleep is BEFORE they start acting tired. If you can watch the clock AND watch for those sleepy cues, you will find that getting your newborn to sleep becomes a breeze! Ok, maybe not a breeze, because they are still a newborn after all, but definitely a lot easier and a lot faster!
Did you know I have a Newborn Course that teaches you literally everything you need to know about getting great newborn sleep? Along with all the tips and tricks on preventing overtiredness, I also teach you how to get good full feeds, how to lengthen naps, how to extend nighttime sleep, calming tricks, all the information you need on tricky babies, and SO. MUCH. MORE.
Newborns CAN get great sleep too! If you are expecting soon or have a newborn, this course is for you!