4 Things to Do When Your Overtired Baby Won't Stop Crying (2023)

Wondering what to do when your overtired baby won’t stop crying? Break the cycle and help your baby catch up on sleep with these tips!

4 Things to Do When Your Overtired Baby Won't Stop Crying (1)I was in actual tears from frustration.

No matter how tired he was, my baby would fight his sleep, kicking and squirming when he realized he was drifting off. He’d jolt and buck himself awake the closer he got to falling asleep.

He was the type that would get overstimulated easily and would startle with every creak and sound. And despite putting him down at the first sign of sleepiness, I still couldn’t manage to get him back on track with his naps.

It seemed like a lose-lose situation. Putting him to sleep was making him cry, but I also couldn’t let him not sleep, either. And so, the cycle of having an overtired baby continued.

What to do when your overtired baby won’t stop crying

You may also be at your wit’s end, wondering how to stop and break the cycle of an overtired baby.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the constant crying, feeling like nothing you do is working. Your baby just cries and cries and never seems happy. He keeps waking up any time he comes close to sleeping, and you can’t even get the basics done without him screaming.

You understood having a baby would be rough and that you wouldn’t get much sleep, but you can’t exactly survive on no sleep. And if you can’t let him self soothe yet, what are you supposed to do in the meantime? Will he eventually sleep?

(Video) Signs of an Overtired Baby and Tips to Soothe Her

Don’t worry, mama. Rest assured that what you’re going through is normal, especially if your pediatrician doesn’t see any worrisome signs. While you won’t be getting 11-12 hours of sleep straight just yet, you can try a few tricks to get him to stop crying and finally fall asleep.

Here’s what worked with me, and I hope these tips work for you, too:

1. Watch the clock, not sleep cues

I felt like the most clueless mom when I couldn’t for the life of me seem to spot a sleep cue. While other moms could tell the difference between their babies’ cries, I could barely tell that mine was getting sleepy.

Just when I thought I finally saw a sleep cue, he was already overtired to sleep well.

Then I learned that, instead of looking for newborn sleep cues, I could also watch the clock instead. Your little one can only stay awake for a short period of time—as little as 45 minutes—before needing another nap. And with feeling overtired to begin with, you can shorten that time even more to play catch up.

Only once he’s about three to six months old can he be awake for about two hours or so. Before then, aim for a max of 90 minutes at a time, and err on the side of even less time than that.

(Video) How To Put Your Baby To Sleep, According To "The Baby Whisperer"

Free download: Want to learn more about how his awake time might be affecting how well he sleeps? Join my newsletter and get my handout—at no cost to you—and discover one mistake you may be making with his awake time.

Don’t make the same mistakes I did—help him fall asleep with this one simple trick! Download it below:

4 Things to Do When Your Overtired Baby Won't Stop Crying (4)

2. Change things up

Nothing is worse than doing the same thing over and over and still not see the results you want. That was pretty much me as I sat on a yoga ball bouncing my baby to sleep, hoping he’d finally knock out. Even though he wouldn’t stop crying, I’d still bounce and rock even more, hoping he eventually would.

Instead, I learned the importance of changing things up. For instance, you can:

  • Change the way you put your baby to sleep. Maybe it’s trying a new way like walking around with a baby wrap or putting her in the swing. You might take her out on a stroll or even drive her around in the carseat. Having a checklist of different go-to strategies hanging on a wall can help break you out of your rut. When one method isn’t working, try another one.
  • Take a break. She can feel your energy. You might be better off putting her down in a safe place (like the crib) to grab that shower and feel refreshed than continue to rock her and feel resentful. A break can also mean a new change in scenery, like carrying her in your arms and stepping outside for fresh air.
  • Don’t put her to sleep. Does she cry even though you’re doing what had worked in the past? I realized that I had to stop putting my baby to sleep when he’d cry the whole time despite my efforts. Experiment and see what happens if you don’t do what you normally do and give your baby the chance to settle on her own. Her constant, inconsolable crying could be a sign that she may not like being put to sleep.

Learn 5 things you can do when your newborn wants to be held all night.

3. Feed your baby

There were times when I felt resentful for being the only one who could feed my breastfed baby. Not my husband, nor my mom, but me. I felt glued to him, unable to run a simple errand should he cry and need to feed. I kept stretching his feed times, hoping he’d settle on a schedule.

(Video) A sleep therapist shares her secrets to putting a baby to sleep in 30 seconds l GMA

Except I learned that babies usually cry because they’re hungry. Yes, it can feel constricting having to feed your baby after it seems like he had just fed, or that feeding him seems to be the only way to get him to stop crying.

But he may be hungry, especially if he’s going through a growth spurt. Don’t discount his actual need for milk when he’s crying endlessly. This might be his way of letting you know he’s hungry, or even a way to increase your milk supply.

How can you tell if he’s hungry or if he’s simply sucking for comfort? Check to see if he’s eating. His throat should be moving if he’s actually swallowing, and he’ll likely make gulping sounds as he drinks.

You can also try a pacifier. If he takes to one, he may just need to comfort suck, but if he spits it out in frustration, he’s likely hungry.

Remind yourself that constant breastfeeding is temporary, especially during growth spurts. Once he’s caught up on eating and sleeping, you won’t always be breastfeeding him this often.

Learn what to do when your baby is feeding every hour and not sleeping.

4 Things to Do When Your Overtired Baby Won't Stop Crying (6)

4. Keep your baby warm

Wondering how to calm your suddenly cranky baby? Depending on your current weather, a simple way to calm a crying, overtired baby is to keep him extra warm. For instance, a few ways to provide that warm comfort include:

(Video) This Doctor Has A Secret Trick To Instantly Make a Baby Stop Crying

  • Giving him a relaxing warm bath. Dim the bathroom lights, keep the room heated, and give him a nice, warm bath.
  • Place a heating pad on his crib. Then, a few minutes before you plan to set him down, remove the pad so that the mattress feels nice and warm. Always check that it’s not too hot.
  • Swaddle him in a warm blanket. Place a blanket in the dryer to warm it up, then wrap it around your baby. Again, make sure it’s not too hot.

What should your baby wear at night? Find out here.


If you’re overwhelmed because your overtired baby won’t stop crying, you’re not alone, mama. I’ve been there and know all too well the exasperation and loneliness you might be feeling.

Thankfully, you’re not stuck, either. Start by putting him down for naps by the clock instead of keeping him awake too long. Change things up, whether it’s how you put him to sleep to taking a much-needed quick break.

Don’t discount his constant feeding—he could be going through a temporary growth spurt. And finally, try keeping him warm as a way to relax him into sleep, like with a warm bath or a blanket.

You can even combine these tricks, like giving him a warm bath, feeding on demand, and keeping his wake times shorter than usual to help him catch up on sleep.

No matter what, know that this is normal—yes, even your tears of frustration.

(Video) Instantly Calm a Crying Baby (4 Little-Known Techniques That Work When Nothing Else Does)

Get more tips:

  • What to Do When Your 3 Week Old Baby Won’t Sleep Unless Held
  • How to Get an Overtired Newborn to Sleep
  • Newborn Not Sleeping? 9 Tricks to Help Your Baby (Finally!) Sleep
  • What to Do When Your Overtired Baby Keeps Waking Up
  • What to Do When Your Baby Won’t Nap Unless Held

Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and get my handout—at no cost to you—and discover one mistake you may be making with your baby’s awake time:

4 Things to Do When Your Overtired Baby Won't Stop Crying (9)


How do you calm an overtired baby crying? ›

Here are some strategies:
  1. Swaddle your baby (stop swaddling once baby can roll), even if they fight it, which many tired babies will.
  2. Once they're swaddled, hold them tightly against your chest.
  3. Breastfeed or give your baby a bottle. ...
  4. Gently and slowly rock or bounce your baby and put them down drowsy but still awake.

What are 4 ways to comfort a crying baby? ›

Sing or talk to the baby in a soothing voice. Gently rub or stroke the baby's back, chest or tummy. Offer a pacifier or try to distract the baby with a rattle or toy. Swaddle the baby with a soft blanket.

Should you let an overtired baby cry it out? ›

Avoid Crying it Out If your baby is truly overtired, then using a cry it out or modified cry it out method may perpetuate exhaustion. They may finally fall asleep, but chances are they will only take a short nap and then continue the cycle for the rest of the day.

Will an overtired baby scream for hours? ›

Signs of Overtired Babies

Sometimes babies stop doing everything including crying and simply yawn to indicate their parents, they're in need of some sound sleep. Being Fussy and Screaming – Overtired babies usually tend to cry continuously and become extremely clingy.

How long should you let a tired baby cry? ›

You start with letting your little one cry for just a few minutes before briefly checking on them. As the night goes on, you gradually increase those response times until your baby falls asleep independently. Your baby's intervals of crying should be no longer than 10 minutes.

How long is too long to let a baby cry? ›

A baby "should simply be allowed to 'cry it out'. This often requires an hour, and in extreme cases, two or three hours. A second struggle will seldom last more than 10 or 15 minutes and a third will rarely be necessary."

What are 3 action steps a parent can do for purple crying? ›

These action steps are:
  1. Carry, comfort, walk and talk with the infant. This encourages caregivers to increase contact with their infant, reduce some of the fussing and attend to their infant's needs.
  2. If the crying is too frustrating, it is okay to walk away. ...
  3. Never shake or hurt an infant.

What does an overtired cry sound like? ›

Late signs of fatigue

The “I'm tired” cry often has a cough-like sound in it. It may sound a bit like this: “wah, wah, WAH – cough – WAH – cough – WAAAAAAH!” Late signs also include furiously rubbing the face/eyes/noise. 40-60 minutes, or awake the duration of their last nap.

Why does an overtired baby fight sleep? ›

When your baby becomes overtired, their stress response system goes into high gear, triggering cortisol and adrenaline to flood into their little bodies. Cortisol helps to regulate the body's sleep-wake cycle; adrenaline is the fight-or-flight agent.

Is it OK to let baby cry 30 minutes? ›

And when it came to emotional or behavioral problems, or attachment, all three groups were the same. This means that it's okay to let your baby cry a little. It's not only okay, it may lead to more sleep all around. Which makes everyone happier.

Why is my baby non stop crying? ›

Colic is the main cause of recurrent crying during the early months. All babies have some normal fussy crying every day. When this occurs over 3 hours per day, it's called colic.

Will a baby eventually stop crying? ›

It may seem impossible to you now, but the crying spells will eventually slow down. According to a 2017 study, in the first weeks after birth, newborns cry about 2 hours a day.

What is purple crying period? ›

Period of PURPLE Crying is a research-based education program developed by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. Program materials include a booklet with app or DVD (available in mulitple languages), a 10-minute video on crying and a 17-minute video on soothing.

When should I take my baby to the ER for crying? ›

Your baby is inconsolable. If your baby is younger than 5 months old and cries for more than three hours in a row, it's time to see a doctor. If the level of crying sounds like hysteria, and you would describe it as inconsolable with no times of stopping, then perhaps it's time to go to the ER.

What is the Supernanny sleep technique? ›

Here's how it works: After your usual bedtime routine (bath, milk, story etc) lay your child in her cot, give him a simple goodnight message, such as 'night night, sleepy time now', and leave the room. If (or more likely when) your child cries, wait for two minutes before returning. After two minutes, go back in.

Can leaving baby to cry damage brain development? ›

Now researchers say they have found that leaving infants to cry has no impact on their behavioural development or their attachment to their mother, but may help them develop self-control.

What are the 5 S's of soothing a crying infant? ›

A new system that involves the five S's — swaddling, side/stomach positioning in the parents' arms, shushing, swinging, and sucking — can calm most crying infants, Dr. Karp said. This activates the baby's calming reflex during the first three to four months of life by mimicking experiences in the uterus.

What are five things a caregiver can do to help a baby stop crying? ›

Here are a few tips to remember when your baby just won't seem to stop crying:
  • Make sure the baby is fed and dry.
  • Feed the baby slowly.
  • Burp the baby often.
  • Rock the baby gently or go for a walk.
  • Take the baby for a ride in a stroller or car.
  • Try a wind-up infant swing.

What is the rule of 3s colic? ›

Colic is often defined by the “rule of three”: crying for more than three hours per day, for more than three days per week, and for longer than three weeks in an infant who is well-fed and otherwise healthy.

What is the 5 10 15 cry it out method? ›

Baby begins to cry immediately and you set the timer for 5 minutes. At 6:25 p.m. you go in and reassure her. If she is still crying, you go back in at 10 minutes and then every 15 minutes until she falls asleep.

Can you leave a baby to cry for 20 minutes? ›

Current NHS advice recommends that you do not leave your little one to cry for longer than 10 minutes at a time, whereas the cry-it-out method suggests that you to walk away until the child falls asleep. Therefore, this approach is not recommended or endorsed by the NHS.

How do you help a cry baby? ›

How You Can Help
  1. Don't discourage your child from crying, especially when she's already upset. ...
  2. Focus on the positives, not the negatives. ...
  3. Check whether you may be reinforcing the crying unintentionally. ...
  4. Teach your child alternatives to crying. ...
  5. Talk about what else he might have done besides bursting into tears.
Feb 26, 2021

What is the best approach to use with a crying baby? ›

Gently rub their back. If your baby goes to sleep, remember to always lay her down in her crib on her back. Turn on a calming sound. Sounds that remind babies of being inside the womb may be calming, such as a white noise device, the humming sound of a fan, or the recording of a heartbeat.

What is the first thing to do when responding to a crying baby? ›

When responding to your child's cries, try to meet her most pressing need first. If she's cold and hungry and her diaper is wet, warm her up, change her diaper, and then feed her. If there's a shrieking or panicked quality to the cry, consider if a piece of clothing or something else is making her uncomfortable.

Should you always pick up a crying baby? ›

Responding to crying

But even if your crying baby isn't sick, hurt, uncomfortable or hungry, it's still important to comfort them. For example, you could try cuddling or rocking them, taking them for a walk, or giving them a baby massage.

What is the fastest way to soothe a crying baby according to science? ›

The majority of parents have been frustrated by their babies' excessive crying and refusal to sleep. According to recent research, holding them for five minutes and walking with them is the most effective method for calming them down.

What does overtired cry sound like? ›

Late signs of fatigue

The “I'm tired” cry often has a cough-like sound in it. It may sound a bit like this: “wah, wah, WAH – cough – WAH – cough – WAAAAAAH!” Late signs also include furiously rubbing the face/eyes/noise. 40-60 minutes, or awake the duration of their last nap.

What stages do babies cry the most? ›

Babies cry a lot in their first 3 months. On average, babies cry and fuss for almost 2 hours a day, and around 1 in 10 babies cry for a lot longer than this. Crying usually reaches a peak at about 6 weeks of age and then gradually lessens to approximately an hour a day by 12 weeks of age.


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