Your newborn baby may be tired after just one hour of being awake. Generally, babies under three months of age will be awake for only one to one and a half hours at a time. 

Common signs of tiredness

There are many signs you can looks for that might mean your baby is getting tired. These include:

  • grizzling 
  • low repetitive tone 
  • disengaging 
  • clenched fists 
  • yawning
  • rubbing eyes or ears 
  • change of face skin colour 
  • arching back 
  • jerky movements 
  • having difficulty focusing or going cross-eyed 
  • sucking fingers as a way of self soothing to sleep 

How babies express their needs

Your baby will signal to you that they: 

  • want affection from a caregiver (engagement cues) or 
  • have had enough of a situation (disengagement cues). 
When your baby wants to ‘engage’ with you they may:  
  • reach out to you 
  • make eye contact 
  • be still or smoothly move their arms and legs 
  • smile 
  • have their hands open 
  • cry 
When a baby is tired and wants to ‘disengage’ they may:  
  • be irritable
  • turn their head away 
  • cough  
  • arch their back 
  • move jerkily 
  • yawn 
  • breathe faster
  • frown 
  • hiccup 
  • stick out their tongue 
  • show a change in facial skin colour 

Your baby may give mixed cues when they are stressed or tired. The main thing is to be sensitive to their needs. You will gradually learn what most of their cues mean, and will be able to respond promptly and sensitively to meet their needs. 

Want to know more? 

Raising Children Network – Tired signs in babies and toddlers 

Raising Children Network – Baby and toddler cues in pictures 

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby – Sleep and settling your baby    

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know when my baby is tired?

When your baby becomes tense, frowns and clenches their fists after being calm and content, they are showing tired signs. This will progress to a grizzle and cry. 

You may also notice that your baby is not keen on feeding when they are tired. They may also disengage from your attempts to have eye contact or chat. 

When you see these signs within an hour of your baby’s wake time, it is time to settle your baby.