3-6 months

Settling your crying baby (3-6 months) - How to get baby to sleep

Crying is one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching sounds to a parent. Crying is a signal (cue) that lets you know that your baby needs help and support.

Crying is one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching sounds to a parent. Crying is a signal (cue) that lets you know that your baby needs help and support.

How your baby communicates

Your baby can’t communicate her needs to you with words until well into her second year and even then she will find this difficult. Fortunately your baby can communicate with you very efficiently non-verbally through:

  • Facial expressions
  • Head, legs, arms and hand movements

All the non-verbal cues are small moment-by-moment actions that are not always easy to identify and like all languages you have to watch closely and learn your baby’s non-verbal language.

Each cue is like hearing a single word. You can’t get meaning from one word - you have to hear a whole sentence. That’s the same for your baby’s cues.


Cues your baby is ready to play.

  • Lifting their head and face to you
  • Gazing straight into your eyes
  • Reaching to you with their arms
  • Smiling
  • Eyes bright, shiny and alert

These are strong messages your baby is ready to socialise and enjoy time with you. Your baby is alert and wide awake. This is the best time for her to pay attention to games and conversation.

Cues your baby may be overstimulated

  • Frowning
  • Looking away or looking down
  • Yawning and or mouthing hands
  • Pulling at ears or rubbing head
  • Dull or glazed eyes

Your baby is saying "I’ve had enough playing and I’m ready to have a break or I’m ready to stop socialising altogether". Your baby may be ready for a feed or sleep.

Cues that your baby needs a break

 Sometimes when you miss your baby’s cues they become overstimulated and need a break or time out, leading to your baby becoming overwhelmed or distressed.

When that happens, your baby can give some strong messages to tell you they need some help to calm down and have a rest. These include:

  • Turning their head away
  • Starting to flap arms around
  • Arching their back
  • Showing you a very sad face
  • Fussing
  • Crying or won't stop crying

What you can do

 When your baby shows these cues, it means they have become overloaded with stimulation and need to take a break. Here’s what you can do

  • If your baby becomes overwhelmed or distressed and shows you “I need a break” cues, it’s time to soothe and calm your baby.
  • The most important thing that you can do is watch your baby carefully and follow your baby’s lead. This can give you much more information about what her non-verbal messages actually mean.
  • Playing and feeding becomes much more enjoyable because you go at your baby’s pace and you enjoy watching what your baby enjoys.
  • It’s more relaxing for you as well. How your baby tells you they are ready for sleep
  • Tired signs are another way of talking about non-verbal cues, but like all cues you have to watch them carefully so you do not misinterpret them.
  • Usually before you go to sleep you are drowsy. Your baby will get drowsy too.
  • This means you need to watch for more than just non-verbal tired signs.

Ready for sleep

As your baby grows they will need different amounts of sleep. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is your baby:

- Drowsy

- Glazey eyes and heavy eyelids

- Still, quiet or not very alert

  • Have you seen these types of non-verbal cues?

- Yawning

- Dull eyes

- Sucking or putting hands to mouth

- Fussy or restless

- Rubbing eyes, face, ears

  • Take into account the age of your baby and how long ago your baby’s last feed and sleep was.
  • And finally get to know your baby. Each baby sleeps, feeds and socialises differently. Your baby may stay awake longer or sleep longer.

Watch your baby carefully and get to know what your baby needs to go to sleep.

Refer to the Tresillian Sleep Book for further information.


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