How to Get an Overtired Baby to Sleep


When my daughter hit the overtired state as a baby she did a lot of crying and fussing. As a toddler she now runs the other direction and hides, is cranky, cries, and fights being picked up. When she gets to this state, I know she is not going to fall asleep if I simply do her normal routine and lay her down. She can be quite stubborn and needs some additional help to calm down before she can fall asleep.

So, if the normal routine won’t work, then how do you get an overtired baby to sleep? Here’s 5 steps I follow when I know she is tired but she just doesn’t want to give in!



How to Get an Overtired Baby to Sleep in 5 Steps

            1. Grab a Binky

              Binky’s are soothing and give baby’s something to focus on as they suck in and out.  If they don’t use a Binky, I suggest grabbing their favorite stuffed animal.  I loved my daughter’s ‘Binky Dog’ because it was both in one.

            2. Go immediately to a dark/quiet room

              Lights, objects and noises add stimulation and when a child is overstimulated and over tired the best thing to do is to reduce the stimulation quickly!

            3. Start rocking, bouncing, and walking at the same time

              Hold your baby/toddler so that they are laying down across your arms. Rock them back and forth and up and down gently as you pace around the room. Keep a steady rhythm as you step, bounce, bounce, step, bounce, bounce, etc. I’ve found the forward motion as well as back and forth soothed my child more than just rocking back and forth in place. Start with a fast motion at first to get their attention, then after they seem calmer you can slow it down.

              If you have a small baby you can also try patting their tush to a slow beat because that really helps.  Forget walking and chewing gum at the same time – Mom’s have to rock, bounce, pat, and walk at the same time, lol.

              For a toddler, depending on their size it may be tough to carry them around.  Instead, kneel or sit on the floor with your toddler in your lap.  Hug them close and rock them back and forth that way.

            4. Sing or shush

              Either sing a lullaby like ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ or ‘Rock a Bye Baby’ as you bounce and walk or use ‘Shh’ in a pattern such as ‘Shh, Shh… Shh, Shh, Shh, Shh’. I know it sounds odd but it really works. Mix up the pattern a bit so that it isn’t so boring but remember that children like routine so don’t get too crazy with it. Something about the shh sound is a lot more soothing than humming so if you opt not to sing, try shushing.

              Toddlers may enjoy songs more along the line of ABC’s or The Wheel’s on the Bus.  You want something a little engaging so that they stop fussing and crying and welcome being rocked in your arms

            5. Continue until they are relaxed

              Once you can tell that your baby/toddler is relaxed and calmer you can then try laying them down to fall asleep on their own. There are plenty of times that I had to do this until my daughter was completely asleep because she just didn’t want to give in. That’s okay. Being overtired should not be a regular occurrence and your normal routine, it’s more of a desperate measure, so do what it takes. To get your baby on a regular schedule see my post on Eat/Play/Sleep.



Baby_CribOnce they are asleep or almost asleep

Depending on how overtired and upset they are, use your judgement on how long you think they need to be rocked to be calm and if you’d rather them fall asleep in your arms or not. 

Whether they are completely asleep or not, at some point you will have to put them down.  Even if they start crying at that point, my suggestion is to put them in their crib and walk away. They may cry a bit, but probably no longer than 5 minutes.  If you keep going back into their room and holding them, you’ll just prolong the process.  They are over tired and desperately in need of sleep.  You have to just leave them alone once you have calmed them down and allow them to fall asleep on their own. 

If interested, read my post on the Cry It Out Method and see if it’s right for you.

I have a friend who has 3 children and she told me that she had one son that was really cranky and couldn’t fall asleep so she kept trying different things like singing, holding, bouncing, etc. and she found that all he really needed was to be left alone quietly.  I think all children need that quiet alone time, just at different stages of their tiredness.  It’s best if you can do it when they are the most calm.

Be confident and calm – children can sense our frustration. Remember, you can do this!

Let me know if these things helped or if you have advice you’d like to share on this topic by replying below. Thanks.

Read about other Common Sleep Problems:

Baby Wets Through Diapers

Baby Has Colic, Gas, or Reflux

Baby Teething Keeping Them Awake

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