Understanding this one word might just be the key to a peaceful and harmonious first few months with your newborn. Here’s what overstimulation is and how to manage it.
From her first breath, a baby is exposed to an onslaught of new sensations – from sounds, sights, to tastes and smells and feelings. Because she is born without sensory filters, she has to develop the ability to organise these sensations and act appropriately on all the incoming information.
Unfiltered sensory input can be overwhelming, and in the process of learning, a baby will transition (sometimes quickly) from a calm, alert phase to a ‘had enough’ phase.
Signs that a baby has had enough stimulation are important to recognize, so that you can control the stimulatory environment for your baby. Keeping things controlled in the beginning, and being your baby’s sensory filter, will lead to greater harmony and fewer stressful outbursts.
The process of interpretation and integration is complex: “Each person’s response to sensory input results in unique behaviours. Enjoyment and functionally effective behaviour comes from the integration of ALL the senses simultaneously!” explains occupational therapist for Nubabi Lourdes Bruwer.
“The key is to observe your baby’s behaviour on an ongoing basis, especially in new situations. Look out for both signs of enjoyment and signs of sensory overload,” says Carly Tzanos, occupational therapist.
Here’s a guide to reading your baby’s signals:
|Kicking legs and arms||Looking away from your face||Hiccups|
|Smiling||Avoiding eye contact||Flushing of the cheeks|
|Cooing||Moaning||Pallor or loss of colour in the cheeks|
|Gurgling||Back arching||Arm flailing|
|Making a big “oooo” with his mouth||Starting to cry||Pupils dilating|
|Looking at you||Increased breathing rate / heart rate|
|Overly quiet or overly vocal (whichever is out of character for your child)|
If you find your baby heading for a state of sensory overload, there are a number of effective ways to cut out the stimulus, and help her reach a calm, relaxed state again:
Being in tune with your babe will help you identify his or her possible overstimulation triggers and recognize the signs he’s had too much. Developing your own strategies for calming will bring peace, contentment, and greater connection for you both.
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