sleepy baby scratching eyes

Signs of Tiredness in Baby

Your baby will be ready for sleep once you have fed them, changed their nappy, and had some quiet playtime – total time awake, 1½ hours. Play, in the first few weeks, will be a bath or a cuddle and a quiet chat – about 15 minutes. By 8 weeks, playtime may have stretched to 30 minutes, including some tummy time on the floor, sitting in a baby rocker chair, and ‘chatting’ together while you have a snack or a drink, or reading them a story.

Watch for the early tired signs that indicate your baby has had enough stimulation and is ready for sleep.

Young father playing with his daughter inside with toys

Watch for the early tired signs that indicate your baby has had enough stimulation and is ready for sleep. They may turn away from you or start to whimper. Learn to recognise your baby’s signs. If you don’t notice these, or misinterpret the signs, and instead try to cheer them up with more play, then they will become overtired and more difficult to settle. If you find you’re constantly trying to settle a distressed baby, then you may be missing the early tired signs. Try starting the settling routine earlier.

Possible tired signs:

  • Turns away from you (disengages).
  • Yawns.
  • Frowns or pulls a distressed face.
  • Starts to whimper or whinge.
  • Becomes tense and agitated.
  • Clenches fists.
  • Kicks and thrashes arms and legs.
  • Rubs their eyes (when older).

How long should your baby feed?

The duration of feeds will vary, with a short feed lasting 5–10 minutes and a long feed lasting up to 45 minutes or more. The duration will shorten as babies grow and become more efficient at sucking.

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Breastfeeding tips

Keep track of the last breast used by putting a paper clip or safety pin on your bra cup or keep a record on your phone. Feel how heavy and full your breasts are before a feed. If baby has had a good feed, your breasts should feel lighter and softer afterwards.

How many feeds?

Your baby may need to feed very frequently in the first weeks of life. While it is common for babies to breastfeed 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period, some babies may need fewer feeds and some more.

As baby grows they will go for longer between feeds, although remember that feeding frequency will increase again during growth spurts. Some babies may continue to wake for night feeds for at least 6 months.

Young father playing with his daughter inside with toys

How will I know if my baby is getting enough milk?

Generally they seem content after a feed (unless they have reflux or colic).

  • They have 6-8 wet nappies in 24 hours (the urine should be almost colourless).
  • They have 1-4 soft or runny bowel motions in 24 hours (browny yellow and possibly grainy appearance).
  • They have a weight gain of 150-200 grams per week in the first 3 months. 

Weigh your baby once a week to monitor this, using the same scales. You could do this at your Child and Family Health Centre. Consult your Child Health Nurse if you need further advice.

Looking after yourself

Eat a healthy balanced diet with three meals and two small snacks per day. Ensure you have something to drink each time the baby feeds so you don’t get thirsty. Try to take the opportunity to sleep or rest when your baby is asleep.

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