Is it too much, baby? Signs of Overstimulation in Babies

Newborn little babies are brand new to the world.  Those first few months out of the womb (sometimes called the fourth trimester) are best spent snuggling, warm, close, and connected together. Taking care of baby and getting used to your new life together. In those first few months of life, you are her world. However, mama starts yearning to re-emerge into the world just as baby starts communicating she is ready to reach out and explore.  As she grows, she depends on you to help guide her and show her the world. Babywearing offers a safe space with which to begin to share the world with your baby. Mama’s body is still a baby’s home base, but you are able to reach out together.

However, as you start venturing out, exploring and sharing the world with baby, remember to follow your baby’s cues and trust your instinct.  Babies are born with an immature nervous system and they have difficulty regulating this busy world they are presented with, so they sometimes get overwhelmed or over-stimulated with too much noise, activity and sensation. Baby simply can’t process it all, and needs some quiet time, a way to relax and calm down.  We want to help you in identifying overstimulation while you are out and about with baby.  Another way to keep baby from experiencing over-stimulation is to only wear baby in the front-outward position of the Omni baby carrier series for very short time periods (5-20 minutes maximum).

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How to Identify Overstimulation in Babies

You know your baby best, but how do you know if your baby is over stimulated? Here are some signs that your baby is overstimulated and ready for a quiet break, a retreat into the loving support and warmth of mama (or papa):

  1. She seems tired, cranky or fussy.
  2. She’s rubbing her eyes.
  3. She’s spreading fingers and toes, or making fists.
  4. She’s putting her hands in front of her face.
  5. She’s ‘spacing out’. Sometimes baby will turn away and simply space out.
  6. She’s turning away from you again and again. She’s trying to ‘switch off’.
  7. She may become drowsy. Babies tend to shut down if this all becomes too much for them.
  8. She becomes hyper-vigilant (overly attentive). This happens because she cannot decipher what is going on and therefore needs to monitor the situation. The subtle key difference to normal curiosity is the body tone. Baby’s body will stiffen up instead of being relaxed and open. This is most likely to happen in busy and unknown environments.

When baby is demonstrating these cues, she’s telling you she needs to calm down and needs your help. The main tip for reducing overstimulation is to create a calm and quiet atmosphere. If you start seeing signs your baby is overstimulated, take a break and create a quiet space for baby where she can relax. That may mean removing her from her current environment or soothing her by swaying her from side to side, making shushing sounds while rocking her, swaddling, or rubbing her back.

If you are wearing her in the Omni baby carrier, it’s time to switch her to the front-inward position, facing you.  Baby wants to lean in and be close to you.  That way, you can give her the calm reassurance that she needs.

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Christina is a mama, conservationist, DIY’er, vintage fanatic, dog lover and the Ergobaby director of community.

She is passionate about babies, babywearing, birth, yoga, natural living, and healthy eats. When not online reading and writing about all of the above, she can be found spending time with her daughter, creating their family story in Los Angeles.

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April 23, 2014