In the beginning, your baby’s brain grows very fast. It requires a lot of learning opportunities, but every so often you’ll find your baby will cry and you can’t figure out why. Your baby might be overstimulated. You see, her brain and nervous system are taking in lots of information, but she isn’t able to process it, so she becomes cranky and scared. Even everyday actions like feeding and contact can trigger it.
What is overstimulation?
Overstimulation is when your child is overwhelmed by his environment, including sensations, noises, and activity. His brain can’t process all the information coming in fast enough, so he becomes frightened and upset.
You’ve probably seen this behavior when a child is at a party and being passed around to all the adults, or when a child is playing in a room full of similar-aged children who are all yelling and banging their toys.
Overstimulation doesn’t always come on at once, either. It can happen after a long day. For example, if your child spends all day at preschool, then an afterschool lesson, playtime at home with the siblings can be too much.
What are the signs of overstimulation?
Overstimulated newborns will display the usual signs of fussiness and tiredness. They will also make cringing facial expressions and jerk their heads away from you in an attempt to reduce the amount of information coming into their brain. Their hands might ball into fists. You will also notice their arms and legs waving as if warding off sensations.
Children who can speak might suddenly become withdrawn and unwilling to cooperate with whatever activity is planned. He or she might refuse to attend the class or play with their friend, or suddenly dislike something you know he/she likes. You’ll also notice behavior problems crop up that you thought were taken care of, like shouting or refusing to share.
You need to balance active and quiet time.
It’s great that you want your baby to learn about the world and grow quickly, but you shouldn’t constantly dangle toys in your baby’s face or insist on scheduling activities all day. Children need predictable, regular quiet time in a familiar setting just like you or I. Let your baby play quietly when she wants. She’ll use this time to learn how to occupy and soothe herself. It may notlook like she’s learning, but she is.
How do you handle overstimulation?
If your baby is overwhelmed, remove her from that area. Take her to a quiet, dim room with no activity. If you’re out somewhere, place her in her carrier or stroller and cover it so she can’t see the outside world. Swaddling newborns can help reduce their physical sensations, as will placing them in a sling or holding them close to your body.
You can help overstimulated toddlers by reducing noise and motion in the room as well. Turn off the TV or radio and bring the child to a familiar place, like her bedroom. Determine if your child needs you close or needs you to walk away. Help her put her feelings into words so you can help her in the future. If you decide to stay near, engage in a peaceful, quiet activity like reading or simply cuddling.
Truthfully, there’s no right amount of stimulation. It depends on the child and the situation. You’ll have to use your baby as a guide and adjust the environment as you see fit. Let your child be the guide.
Guest Blog by Stephanie Parker from Sleepingbaby.com, inventor of the Zipadee-Zip
The motto for Sleeping Baby, makers of the Zipadee-Zip, is: “Inspiring Dreams One Night at A time,” and that, in a nutshell, is how it all started…with one little dream that has since become the Parker family’s reality. When Brett and Stephanie Parker’s daughter, Charlotte, was born, the feeling that welled up inside of them was indescribable; they never realized until first looking into those baby blues of hers that they were even capable of that kind of love.
When it was time to transition baby from swaddling, the Parkers tried every sleep sack on the market and every swaddle weaning trick they could find for nearly two weeks and nothing worked to get baby Charlotte to fall and stay asleep.
Stephanie became determined to restore sleep and sanity to their household and set out to find a solution that would soothe Charlotte’s startle reflex and provide her the cozy womb-like environment she loved so much but still give her the freedom to roll over and wiggle around in her crib safely. Out of sheer desperation and exhaustion, the Zipadee-Zip was born. The first Zipadee-Zip(R) Stephanie put together on her little sewing machine worked like magic!
To date tens of thousands of Zipadee-Zips have been sold and all from word-of-mouth marketing. It is so rewarding for the Parkers to see other parents and babies getting the sleep they both need and deserve!
For more information, visit sleepingbaby.com.
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