How to Soothe a Fussy or Overtired Baby to Sleep

If you are like me, convincing an overtired or fussy baby to settle and sleep is one of the most challenging hurdles of parenting. Ever noticed how the more you soothe them, the more fussed up they become, and the more they can’t fall asleep?

Well, there is a reason for that. 

Once your baby is overtired, their response system is activated, releasing cortisol and adrenaline hormones into its system. 

Cortisol regulates the baby’s sleep-wake cycle, while adrenaline activates the fight-or-flight state, in which your baby may find it difficult to fall or even fall asleep. 

Parents interpret fussiness differently, but when your baby is persistently irritated, crying in the middle of the night, and difficult to console, you can describe them as fussy. 

Crying is common in fussy babies, but that’s okay since it’s how they communicate their discomfort.

So, how do I know my baby is fussy or overtired? How do I get them to sleep? 

If these are your concerns, keep reading as we delve more into the indicators of a fussy baby and how to get them to settle. 

Is all Fussiness Normal?

Whether breastfed or formula-fed, babies have a regular fussiness pattern, making them irritable at a particular time, mainly in the late afternoon or evening. 

In most babies, fussiness starts at about 2 to 3 weeks, peaks at six weeks, and clears by 3 to 4 months. A single session of irritability may last 2 to 4 hours a day on average. 

Not all fussiness is normal, but the regularity of the fussy periods can help you identify if your baby has a problem or is experiencing a normal fussiness session. 

Suppose your baby is not responding to what they usually respond to with approximately the same intensity or some variation. In that case, they might be experiencing a problem that requires to be checked by a medical practitioner. 

 Check how they respond to motion, holding, and breastfeeding. You may seek an expert opinion if you notice any change in your fussy baby’s response to these. 

Causes of Fussiness in Babies

Fussy baby

Once you have ruled out any possibility of an illness in your fussy baby, it is then necessary that you check the cause of the fussiness. 

Some of the common causes of fussiness in babies include;

  • Hunger
  • Being too cold or too hot
  • Overstimulation or boredom
  • Discomfort
  • Wet or soiled diaper
  • Separation anxiety


Check for signs of a hungry baby to rule out hunger. Is the baby moving hands to mouth, or is she smacking lips? Has the baby been fed recently? A feeding chart is essential in ensuring the baby is frequently provided to avoid getting into the fussy stage. 

Please consult your nutritionist on feeding sessions, although they usually are 2 to 2.5 hours from the start of one feeding session to the next.  

Food sensitivity  

Though uncommon, your baby may be fussy due to discomfort from food sensitivity. 

If you are breastfeeding, the following foods in your breast milk might be causing fussiness in your baby;

  • Caffeine
  • Dairy products
  • Foods likely cause bloating, such as onions, cabbage, and beans. 

Before cutting out any diets, talk to your doctor to ensure a nutritional balance is retained. 

Wet Diaper

Baby discomfort due to a wet or soiled diaper can cause a lot of fussiness. Babies are very sensitive to wet diapers, so even if you have just changed them, check again to eliminate this cause. 


Fussiness in your baby might result from a temperature discomfort. If your baby is too hot or cold, they will experience difficulty falling asleep and become fussy. 

Your baby should wear the same layers of clothing you wear. 

Overtiredness in Babies

Overtiredness in your baby is a miserable experience for your baby and your family. Especially because it sets the baby’s body into an overdrive that is challenging to break. 

Your baby may become overtired if they stay awake for too long or is overstimulated. Notice when the baby is tired and ready to rest instead of waiting until they are overtired.

Create a sleeping schedule around the baby’s natural patterns to ensure they sleep before becoming overtired. 

To create a sleep schedule, observe the baby’s sleep patterns and note when they nap and sleep at night. Now create a sleep schedule around such timings. 

Signs that your baby is overtired

Yes, your baby can’t talk, but there are several ways you can tell that your baby is overtired.

  • Yawning

Just like adults, babies will yawn when tired.

  • Touching their face

Rubbing their eyes and face and tugging on the ears are all signs of a tired baby. 

  • Clingy Baby

A tired baby may hold on to you and become fussy when you put them down. Tired babies develop a desperate need to be cared for. 

  • Whimpering

This may be as simple as whimpering or graduating from a full-blown crying session. 

  • Total lack of interest

Your baby may withdraw, losing interest in their toys, games, or any other stimulation that interests them. 

If you dont attend to your tired immediately, they become overtired, which will be characterized by;

  •  More yawning, 
  • Extremely difficult soothing, 
  • Overactivity,
  • Sleeping off schedule,
  • Taking very short naps (catnaps)

Ways of Soothing your Fussy or Overtired Baby

  1. Provide the basic needs
  • Feed.
  • Burp the baby.
  • Check and change a diaper if necessary.
  • Check if her dressing is comfortable, not sticking to her, not too light, or too heavy. 

2. Comforting touch

  • Hold the baby and give her a back rub.
  • Carry her in a sling, a wrap, or other comforting carriers.
  • Try the “colic hold”; let her lie across your forearm with the tummy down and your hand supporting the chest. 
  • Let the baby lie across your lap, and gently rub her back. Slowly lift and lower your heels as you continue rubbing her back. 
  • Try placing baby on the bed or comfortable floor tummy-down and pat his back.
  • Massage baby with a mild and light oil.

3. Reduce stimulation

  • Swaddle baby.
  • Dim the lights or, even better, draw the blackout curtains.

4. Comforting Sounds

  • Sing baby a lullaby
  • Turn on white noise to block out household noises (fan, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher)
  • Play soft music with differing styles and voices to see which one your baby prefers. Sing to baby
  • Turn on some “white noise” (fan, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher)

5. Rhythmic Motion

  • Bath the baby
  • Rock 
  • Nurse the baby while in motion; try walking around or rocking
  • Place baby in a carrier or sling and walk around inside or outside
  • Take baby out for a walk in the stroller in a quiet street


Having a continuously fussy, overtired baby frustrates your child and family. This situation can be solved through various strategies. Establish a routine, so the baby rests before tiring. Also, look for signs of a tired baby to avoid getting to the overtired stage. 

Note that a particular strategy may work for the baby, and then they stop responding. It is time to try another approach and see which one your baby embraces.