Recognizing sleep signals in your baby

If you are becoming a parent for the first time, it can be extremely exciting to get to know your baby. At first, every sound and movement seems like a mystery; Is everything okay or should I do something? When it comes to sleep, it is very important to recognize sleep signals. Discover in this article how to recognize sleep signals and what to do if your baby indicates that he is tired.

Sleep cues are signs that your baby needs sleep. It seems as if a young baby cannot communicate at all, but that is not entirely true! Certain movements and specific behavior are indeed a form of (non-verbal) communication.

By recognizing and understanding your baby's signals, you gain insight into your baby's sleep cycle. This makes your daily life a lot easier. Responding to sleep signals promotes a healthy sleep routine and increases the chance that your baby will sleep well.

I would like to emphasize that every baby is different. In this article we have listed the most common sleep signals, but always keep in mind that your baby may use other ways to tell you that he is tired.

Okay, now we move on to the sleep signals.

To yawn

Of course, we all recognize the first sleep signal, because it is also sometimes shown by parents: yawning. The universal sign of fatigue. Do you see that your baby is yawning? Then it's time to start the bedtime ritual!

Rubbing the eyes

When your baby starts rubbing his eyes, it is often time to go to bed. This cute gesture indicates tiredness and then it is smart to seek out a quiet environment.


Is your child suddenly very restless? Then it is probably very tired. You recognize this behavior by 'hyperactive' movements such as waving the arms, fidgeting a lot and not being able to find rest. Your baby is experiencing discomfort and may be looking for a comfortable sleeping position. Recognize restlessness as a need for sleep and start stimulating immediately: turn off music or TV, put toys out of sight and give your child the chance to calm down.

Fiddling with the ears

Fumbling with the ears often occurs when your child is restless due to fatigue. Your child has an urge to move and this is expressed by restlessly reaching for the ears. It is a fairly subtle signal that almost always indicates fatigue. Please note that if your child touches his ears all day long, there may be an infection.


A cranky and whiny baby may seem grumpy, but he is probably just tired. There's not much point in trying to cheer you up now, it's smarter to start with the bedtime ritual . You will see that your child has new energy after a nap.

Look away and stare

Is it suddenly difficult to make eye contact with your baby? That is also a sleep signal! Babies who are tired sometimes avoid interaction by looking away and staring a lot. So recognize this as a sign of drowsiness and put your baby to bed.

Sleep signal recognized, what now?

Have you recognized a sleep signal in your baby? Then it's time to start the bedtime ritual. Always start with de-stimulation: remove all stimuli from the room or find a quiet space. Avoid screens, loud and busy noises and lots of colors. Soft soothing music or white noise often works well to prepare your child for bedtime.

Now follow the ritual as you are used to, so that your baby understands that it is time to go to sleep. If your child is restless, first cuddle extensively, put your child in bed and stand there for a moment, possibly with a hand on his head or tummy. Or use the NUNKI sheet to tuck your baby in tightly simply and safely. This way your baby feels safe and can fall asleep more easily.



Frederieke Meihuizen

Owner Fedde&Kees®

Ik ben Frederieke, getrouwd met Ewoud en mama van 4 kindjes. Na op veel plekken gewoond te hebben, ben ik gesetteld in Nieuwkoop. Ik werkte in de commercie tot mijn vierde kindje geboren werd. Fedde was een huilbaby en vanuit deze wanhoop heb ik de producten van Fedde&Kees bedacht. Ik gooide mijn leven om en begon met ondernemen. Sinds 2018 help ik andere ouders naar een betere slaap!