Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tired one Minute, Ready to Play the Next! What's with that?

 Is your baby tired one minute, ready to play the next! 
What's up with that?    
Congratulations, You have just missed the sleep window.  This blue eyed baby had these two pictures taken just a minute a part.  She is 6 months old and she is very alert.  It is hard to catch her sleep window because her overtired state (Cortisol Rush) comes right on the heels of Yawning and Eye rubbing, or in other words, the obvious tired signs. It's just not fair!  One minute you see that she's tired, then she is ready to play again. 

Here's what you can do.  
First, try to catch the early tired signs.  
Do you know what those are?

I ran a pole in my "Sleep Sisters-Get Quiet Nights"  Facebook group of Early Tired Signs that the mom's had observed in their babies. 

They Mentioned:
Zoning out
Staring off into space
Glassy eyes
Blinking more slowly
Clumsy (Toddlers)
Scrunching up their face
Clenching their fists
Grunting or Grizzing
Laying their head on the floor
Crawling over for a hug
Putting their head on mom's shoulder
Pulling Ears or Hair
Red Around the eyes or eyebrows (this can be an early or a late sign)
Hands get warm (this was the first time I had heard of this unique sleep cue) 

Early Tired signs can be VERY hard to catch. They are more subtle and may only last for a moment. If you see an early tired sign, put your baby to bed even if it only lasts a minute and your baby seems happy to keep playing and stay up.  Your baby has entered the sleep window and you just saw the opening act.  The closing act (yawing and eye rubbing) you want to happen after her head is on the mattress if you have an Alert baby like this one.  

If you can not see the early tired signs, no matter how hard you try, that does NOT mean that you aren't a good mom.  That happens all the time.  Especially if you have an alert, smart, spirited baby.  That would be like feeling guilty for not knowing what every cry means.  Tired, Hungry, Overstimulated, Poopy, Bored, etc.  (Oh wait, you do feel guilty about that?)  No need to feel guilty about that.  Throw that guilt out the window.  Many babies don't have the range of crying for all the different things, and mom's may not have the sensitive hearing it takes to distinguish the cries or the life experience to tell the difference.  Not your fault.  Your effort is enough.  Here is a cheat sheet for Fussy Signs you can't Identify.  Print it out and stick it to your refrigerator. 

A Sleep Deprived Parent's Cheat Sheet for Guessing 
Why She's Crying

So here is a trick to help you figure out the sleep window when early sleep cues are not obvious. 

Make a timeline of your sleep. 
  • Wake up time. 
  • Early tired signs (See the above list)
  • Late tired signs. (Yawning, eye rubbing) 
  • Cortisol rush (Burst of Energy)
Now figure out how long your wakeful window is. And How long your sleep window is. If you can't figure out how long your wakeful window is, look at the time difference between wake up and cortisol rush. Now subtract 15 minutes from that time. That's how long your wakeful window is. That's when you should have been seeing early tired signs. It can be hard to see those early tired signs. Especially with alert children.

For babies 6-9 months the wakeful windows are often 2 hours long so naps are 2 hours apart. We call this a 2-2-2-2 schedule. The 2 represents a wakeful window. 

For babies 9-18 months the wakeful windows are more like 2-3-4. Wake up, then two hours of wakefulness. Have a nap then three hours of wakefulness. Then have an afternoon nap and then 4 hours of awake time, then it's bedtime. 
I call this a 2-3-4 schedule. 

For toddlers 17 months to 2 years old, the first nap gets dropped and it's more of a 6-4 schedule. Wake up, awake for 6 hours, then nap. Then up to 4 hours and then it's bedtime. 

For toddlers over 2 years old, the wakeful windows are much less predictable so watch for the early tired signs. 

Remember, It's your effort and responsiveness that makes you a good parent.  Not the number of perfect days you have. 

Tracy Spackman is Certified Gentle Sleep Coach

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