Most people think a baby is ready for slumber when her eyes get lidded and her head slumps against our shoulder. Actually, at that point she is overtired.

Many tired babies can sleep anywhere, anytime. But those with a challenging temperament or poor state control live on a tightrope. Growing weariness can suddenly tip them off balance and send them crashing down from a happy alertness to exhausted misery in a blink.

So if your well-meaning neighbor says to keep your tired baby awake during the day to boost her sleep at night, don’t do it! This strategy may work for adults, but it usually backfires with babies, leading to bigger struggles falling into sleep…and staying there.

In his classic book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby, sleep expert Dr. Mark Weissbluth states, “Sleep begets sleep.” He’s right…and that’s why experienced parents put their babies to sleep before they get overtired.

Signs of an Overtired Baby

signs your baby is ready for sleep

As shown in the sample 2-month-old schedule above during these early months, your best bet is to put your little bug in bed after 1.5 to 2 hours of wakefulness, hopefully at–– or just before­­––she shows these early signs of an overtired baby:

  • Reduced activity, smiling, and talking (or even frowning!)

  • Yawning

  • Staring, blinking and rubbing the eyes

  • Increased fussing

As time goes on, it will get easier and easier to recognize your little one’s sleepy-time cues. Putting your baby down before she shows signs of being overtired and cranky will not only be easier for you, but it will also set her up to get the best sleep possible!

What do you do when an overtired baby won’t sleep?

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to get an overtired baby to sleep, try the 5 S’s: Swaddle, Side (or stomach) Position, Shush, Swing, and Suck. The Happiest Baby on the Block streaming video breaks down these techniques and shares essential calming tricks to get your tired baby to sleep quicker and longer.

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

View more posts tagged, sleep

Have questions about a Happiest Baby product? Our consultants would be happy to help! Connect with us at

Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.