Friday, July 15, 2011

Secrets of Baby Behavior: Overstimulation

 My 3 year old, Olivia, just started gymnastics. Her class is held at 6 pm in a large warehouse-like building that includes a gymnastics area, where several classes are conducted concurrently, and a hockey rink. Olivia was so excited for her first class, so our whole family (me, my husband, and 7-month-old Charlotte) came to watch. As you can imagine, the sounds of squealing toddlers, giggling pre-teen gymnasts, and hockey practice echoing through the inadequately air conditioned building quickly became overwhelming for Charlotte. While I helped with Olivia’s class, my poor husband spent the entire hour trying to keep Charlotte calm. This week, we decided that Charlotte should stay home, so I took Olivia alone. As I sat in the waiting area, watching Olivia do her first summersault, I heard some fussing and saw a mom rocking her baby. I watched as she tried bouncing and singing, walking around, and even feeding her 3 month-old son, but nothing seemed to help him calm down. Finally, after about 20 minutes, the baby fell asleep. The mom looked relieved as she sat down next to me and said “I think he should stay home next week.”

After seeing another mother experience exactly what we went through just a week before, I was reminded how easily babies become overstimulated. Over the last 2 years, we’ve posted a lot of information about overstimulation. So, today I thought it would be good to provide links to previous posts that may be useful to parents going through the same thing.

Baby Behavior Basics Part 2: The Many Moods of Babies (June 2009) – In one of our original posts, we describe the 4 infant states babies move through when they are awake (drowsy, quiet alert, irritable, and crying). For each state, we explain what you will see that will tell you that this is the state your baby is in and what you can do to help your baby be calm and happy.

Baby Behavior Basics Part 3: Learning and Creating Your Baby’s Special Language (June 2009) – Babies give 2 types of cues to tell caregivers what they need. Engagement cues are given when they want to interact and disengagement cues mean they need something to be different. This post describes both types of cues and explains how each can be related to overstimulation.

Baby Behavior Basics Part 4: Crying: Your Baby’s Super Power (June 2009) – Babies can’t tell us with their words when they are overstimulated, so crying is an important way they tell us they need a break. For information about why babies cry, recognizing when a crying baby is overstimulated, and using repetition to help calm your baby, read this post!

Reader Question: How to keep your baby from being grumpy while grocery shopping (March 2010) – Like the gymnastics class, the grocery store can be a very overwhelming place for a young baby. The sights, sounds, smells, and even temperature change from aisle to aisle and can overload babies’ senses. In this post we provide tips to make the shopping experience a little easier on everyone!

Part 1: The Phenomenon of Late Afternoon/Early Evening Infant Crying (July 2010) –Many babies tend to get fussy in the late afternoon or evening and overstimulation is usually the reason. This post provides research about crying and why it tends to be more common later in the day. In Part 2, we provide tips to deal with late afternoon and early evening crying.

Too Much Fun: Preventing Overstimulation in Infants and Toddlers (December 2010) – In this post, we provide tips for minimizing meltdowns that can occur when our kids have had too much excitement. Although it isn’t possible to prevent your baby from ever getting overwhelmed, these tips can help!

Baby Science: The First 72 Hours (February 2011) – This post was written to provide the “baby science” behind what I experienced during the first few days after Charlotte was born. We explain why many newborns are very sleepy on day 1, how overstimulation can lead to fussiness on day 2, and why babies don’t always breastfeed perfectly the first time.

If you have questions about overstimulation, please send us a comment!

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