“Is he a good sleeper?”
“Oh, he’s wonderful. He just closes his fists, wrinkles his button nose, and lets out a cute little grizzle – and I know he’s tired. So then he’s straight into bed and he’s out like a light for 2-3 hours! What about your Bubs, is she a good sleeper too?”
“Oh, she’s a nightmare. She flails her arms, kicks her legs, and cries angrily until she’s all red in the face – and I don’t know if she’s bored, tired, hungry or has colic. So I try a different toy, then try feeding her again, then end up rocking her to sleep. It’s a battle every time – and she often wakes up again only 45 minutes later!”
Conversations like this between Mums are so jolly common these days. We are told repeatedly how unique and individual our babies are, with their distinctive personalities and particularized requirements. Yet when it comes to tired babies, it seems many parenting ‘gurus’ give just one set of advice for all babies – but each expert’s ‘golden rules’ can seem to be significantly different to the next expert’s ‘magical secrets’. All in all, parenting a tired baby can feel like a fiercely confusing topic.
Yet, if we go back just 40-50 years when new babies and their mums all stayed in hospital for 1-2 weeks, somehow those midwives and maternity nurses managed to have nearly all the babies on well-established sleep-feed-awake-sleep routines before they went home. There just didn’t seem to be nearly the same amount of mother’s complaining of poorly-sleeping infants.
And one of the main reasons is frustratingly simple … it’s because babies born in the 70’s, 60’s and earlier, tended to have significantly quieter and more predictable lives, sometimes completely devoid of over-stimulation. But today’s Westernized wee babies can truly suffer through their over-tiring little lives … car drives, shopping errands, supermarkets, coffee group outings, pram jogs, gym crèche, coffee shop lunches … busy, busy, busy!
These days many of our babies are born into a strange new cultural combination of assuming them to be utterly irreplaceably precious (whereas 100 years ago parents often accepted the probable fate that not all their children would survive) – yet conversely today’s babies are also treated with a kind of durable, flexible, portable take-them-everywhere attitude (whereas 100 years ago ‘delicate’ mothers and ‘fragile’ babies often stayed mostly at home for the first 4-6 weeks).
And what about our babies’ unique individual personalities? Well in general terms, only around two out of five babies are the predictable good-as-gold textbook angel type of personality. The majority of babies are ultra-sensitive, fidgety or consistently cranky. So if your baby seems to be prone to meltdowns, has a mind of his own, or is almost impossible to coax a smile out of sometimes, then do know that this is all absolutely normal. (And if your baby is easy to handle or seems eternally happy, then do be very grateful indeed!)
But nearly all infant sleep experts tend to agree on the same ‘Signs’ of an Over-Tired Baby, as opposed to a Tired Baby, as follows: