How to Settle an Overtired Child

6 min read
How to Settle an Overtired Child

How to Settle an Overtired Child

Settling is one of the most time consuming and important things that you will discover in the first months – or year of being a new parent. New parents are surprised to find out that their baby doesn’t just drift off to sleep peacefully and or whenever they are tired. Nope, not even when you put them down.

Well, some babies are easier to settle. If bub is like that then well, lucky you! You might be able to experience less tiring and sleepless nights.

However, that isn’t true for all babies. Most are really really hard to settle. In fact, the longer you try to get them to sleep, the harder it can be to get them down and ensure that they stay down.

An overtired baby is a grumpy, screaming, inconsolable headache and the longer they stay awake, the worse it’s going to get. The best way to prevent overtiredness in newborns and infants is to watch for the tired signs and to act fast to put them to sleep. New babies will only need to be awake for 60 to 90 minutes at a time and sometimes less. However, what happens if you’ve already missed the window and they are already overtired?

Below are some ways to settle an overtired baby that will limit the screams and the stress for you.

How to Settle an Overtired Child | Stay at Home Mum


Cuddle, Rock and Bounce

Yes, it’s important for babies to learn how to ‘self-settle’ but it is not the right time to teach this new trick when your bub is already overtired and distressed. So give in to the other methods of settling that may be ‘frowned’ upon by some but will offer comfort and hopefully help them to feel safe enough to sleep. This can include rocking, feeding, bouncing, patting, cradling, putting on soft music, singing or even going for a drive if they fall asleep in the car.

No, you shouldn’t rely on these methods every single time but, hey, if they work, then give it a go!

Turn Down the Sound

See if you can escape the hustle and bustle of the house and go to a quiet corner where you and your baby can just chill out quietly together. I highly recommend getting a rocking chair or similar, something comfortable for both Mumma and Baby where you can snuggle together – this is calming for baby.

The Tresillian Sleep Book

The Tresillian Sleep Book from Angus & Robertson is a great guide from Australia’s most trusted parent support organisation.

Go For A Soothing Bath

Not just for your baby – but the both of you.  Run a nice lukewarm bath, add some baby-friendly lavender wash and go for cuddles together.  Water is soothing and nothing feels as nice as being clean.

We love the Gaia Sleeptime Bath – it is vegan and organic and smells delicious!

Gaia Pure Organic Sleeptime Bath for Baby

Invest in a Baby Swing

These things are BRILLIANT! Not only do they give Mums their hands free, they can really settle an upset baby down quickly.

We love the 4Moms Mama Roo 4.0 Baby Swing!

4moms mamaroo 4 0 baby swing silver plush by 4moms 69c | Stay at Home

Go to a Darkened Room

Not jet black, just soft and darkened… a sleepy room. Blackout blinds are always a great idea if your nursery window gets too much light – particularly at night time.

Put on Some Soft Progressive Style Music in the Nursery

Having some soft music that your baby can learn to associate with sleep might just help.  There is even music written just for baby’s sleep time.

Wrap or Swaddle

Try wrapping your baby up tightly in a swaddle, sleeping bag or wrap. This can prevent them from twitching and kicking which can keep them awake. It will also help them to calm down and feel warm and safe.

How to Settle an Overtired Child | Stay at Home Mum

Go for a Drive in the Car

Yes, going for a drive with the baby strapped in isn’t ideal at 3am in the morning, but sometimes, when you are at your wit’s end, it can work.  Just make sure you are awake enough to drive safely.


Now this should be a last resort option –  if your baby is too overstimulated and overtired you may need to resort to medication. Overtiredness and being extra grizzly can be a sign of impending illness or pain, but sometimes it can be hard to tell, especially if your baby is not at the talking stage!

If your baby is over the weight limit and over the age of one, then you can consider giving your child half a dosage of paracetamol only if you think pain could be an issue. Then it’s best to book an appointment in the morning to see your GP.

If you don’t like the idea of giving medication to your baby, especially if you are not sure that they are unwell, then it’s advised to speak to your GP, chemist or naturopath about remedies to help with infant sleep.

When in doubt, call one of the health hotlines available in Australia. They’re free and you can speak to a registered nurse who will help you through.

Tag Team with Your Partner

Dealing with an overtired baby can be extremely frustrating, especially if you simply cannot get them to stop crying or if as soon as you put them down, they wake themselves back up screaming for you. Take a breather and walk away rather than picking your baby up angry and anxious. If you have a partner there, ask them to help you out while you calm down. If you are alone, let your baby cry for a few moments while you take a few deep breaths and step away from the chaos.

Track Your Baby’s Sleep

Consider downloading an App to keep track of your baby’s sleeps and feed times. This can prevent you from missing the window of sleep and returning to the nightmare realm of overtiredness.  We recommend the following apps:

  • Baby Sleep Sounds
  • Sleepy Sounds
  • Lightning Bug Sleep Clock

Keep a Close Watch

Once your baby has finally drifted off the sleep, they may wake up again after twenty to forty minutes of sleeping, or after one sleep cycle. Keep an eye on them during this time and if they do start to stir, gently pat your baby back to sleep before they fully wake up. If they do fully wake up, keep the light off and use the soothing method that works best.

If you become concerned about any symptoms please seek immediate medical attention we have some hotlines and suggested websites for further information and advice

SAHM takes no responsibility for any illness, injury or death caused by misuse of this information.  All information provided is correct at time of publication.

How to Settle an Overtired Child | Stay at Home

About Author

Jody Allen

Jody is the founder and essence of Stay at Home Mum. An insatiable appetite for reading from a very young age had Jody harbouring dreams of being a pu...Read Moreblished author since primary school. That deep-seeded need to write found its way to the public eye in 2011 with the launch of SAHM. Fast forward 4 years and a few thousand articles Jody has fulfilled her dream of being published in print. With the 2014 launch of Once a Month Cooking and 2015's Live Well on Less, thanks to Penguin Random House, Jody shows no signs of slowing down. The master of true native content, Jody lives and experiences first hand every word of advertorial she pens. Mum to two magnificent boys and wife to her beloved Brendan; Jody's voice is a sure fire winner when you need to talk to Mums. Read Less

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