Overstimulation in Babies - Signs, Causes, and How To Deal With
6 mins read
Development for New Born
If your baby displays crankiness and disinterest even though you are trying your best to engage him, it could be a reaction to sensory overload. Understand that your baby does need to be stimulated all the time and that he needs some quiet time as well.
Ever wondered why, after too much cuddling and holding, your baby starts looking away from you instead of responding positively? Many mothers feel dejected witnessing this behaviour and some even seek help from a paediatrician. However, what the baby is actually going through is a sensory overload. Our little ones are new to all this sensory reception and too much of it burdens them. Their nervous system becomes loaded with too much sensory stimulation, causing them to become cranky. You need to realise that your little bundle of joy has just made a transition from the quiet world of his mother’s womb to a chaotic environment. Before birth, the baby is soothed by the constant heartbeat of the mother and light bodily movements, whereas the outside world is defined by constant activity, too many faces and loud noises. It is a result of this major transition from one world to the other that makes babies send out an overstimulation signal to the parents. There are basically two types of signs:
Signs of Overstimulation in Babies:
Before you look at the ways to deal with an overstimulated newborn or baby, it is important to identify the signs and symptoms of an overstimulated baby.
Behavioural Signs of Overstimulated Baby:
This basically includes three phases namely, spacing out, switching off and shutting down. So when your baby is a little overstimulated, the reaction would be looking away into space or just randomly around (spacing out). If you keep pushing, he might constantly keep his face away from you (switching off). Lastly, if you persist further, the baby may simply resort to the drowsy mode (shutting down).
Physical Signs of Overstimulated Baby:
Over stimulated babies tend to exhibit changes in colour. They go from normal skin colour to a bright or pale red. Other changes can be noted in their breathing pattern that moves from slow to fast. Additionally, unlike their smooth movements, they tend to get jerky.
WATCH: Understanding Signs of Overstimulation (SOS) in Newborns
It may be difficult to understand just by reading, what an overstimulated newborn exactly does or looks like. Take a look at the video below to understand better.
Is you baby showing all the above signs too? Then your baby is in fact overstimulated! Read on to find out reasons for this, and tips to deal with it.
Causes of Overstimulation in Newborns:
One of the main steps in dealing with an overstimulated baby is to first understand the causes for overstimulation in babies. Here are a few typical signs of an overstimulated baby.
He is awake too long:
Newborn sleep a lot. Most of their time is spent sleeping. However, it may be tempting to try and keep the baby awake out of excitement and wanting to spend more time with the baby! Keeping him awake for a long period, however, can result in overstimulation. Ensure you confine your baby’s awake time to an optimal length. Let him have his proper rest at night and also enjoy some sleep in day time when he seems tired or full after being fed.
He is held for too long:
Most Indian moms follow and strongly believe in attachment parenting. However, this might lead to overstimulation of your newborn because he is constantly 'held' or cuddled. This one differs in each baby and it solely depends on what is ‘too long’ for your baby. This is when you should get his cues like he seems irritated, slow, inactive, etc.
He is involved in too much activity:
It can be anything - too much visual stimulation, noise, smell, etc. While it may not be 'too much' according to you, realise that it was much quieter, darker, and neutral in your womb! Overstimulation because of too much activity is more likely to occur in presence of lot of family members or at social functions. It tends to make the baby uncomfortable, which is followed by a lot of crying.
His routine is disrupted:
This is one of the major reasons for the baby to become over stimulated, especially if his sleep routine is disturbed. If he is not getting proper sleep, meals or resting time, chances are he will get irritated.
8 Tips on How To Calm An Overstimulated Newborn
Now that you know all about the signs and causes of overstimulation in babies, let us look at the different ways in which you can deal with overstimulation symptoms in newborns.
Give him a break:
Whenever you are at a social gathering with your little one and you realise it is getting too much for him, take some time out for just the two of you. Go to a room and nurse him in some quiet place. It will help him get a break from the chaos outside.
Allow him to sleep properly:
Make sure he takes proper sleep. In case you are travelling and you feel there won’t be much space to lay him down somewhere, help him sleep in your arms comfortably. This will keep him less irritated and more active when he wakes up.
Let him cry:
At times babies react to overstimulation by crying. Usually this crying is followed by sleeping. So let him cry and take it all out. Just take him in your arms and walk around, or lay him on a bed in a dark room, away from all the activities.
Try to learn some soothing tricks:
Each baby needs to be tackled differently. Your baby might like a song that calms him down or require a pacifier. He may also expect you to sway or rock him. Learn by observing how he behaves in the state of overstimulation and take actions accordingly.
Get him back on his schedule:
Allow him to follow his usual schedule without making changes each day. Let him wake up, feed, be active or cry whenever he wants without trying to make a change in it.
If you realise that he is not liking too much of carrying around, holding in arms, rocking, etc. avoid it. Let him have his own time without much interruption.
Make him more comfortable by swaddling him in a soft blanket and maybe hum a tune.
Let him touch you:
Allow him to have skin-to-skin contact with you. Let him lie on your top without clothes or touch your breasts, fingers, etc. Do not lead him; allow him to do what he likes.
With these steps successfully implemented, you will realise that the baby’s skin colour has turned to normal again, the heartbeat has become regular and the crankiness has disappeared. Further, your baby will also start showing more interest in you and respond better to engaging activities.
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