Are You Over Stimulating Your Baby?
Parents frequently come to me because their babies won’t sleep, they constantly cry, have unpredictable mood swings and suffer from reflux. Sometimes all these complaints can be down to one thing. Their environment. Babies come from the quiet, dark, safe, warm womb, thrust into a world of bright lights, loud voices and lots of eager people excited to meet them.
I advise parents to look at the world through their baby’s eyes, a technique which can also be adapted throughout childhood. When they react in a certain way, ask yourself why? What’s going on for them right now? Learning to do this will send the message “you understand me” to your baby which leads them to “trust you”.
All babies need stimulation, because they’re constantly downloading information. They need to be spoken to, to learn and develop. However, there may be a point when your baby needs quiet. If at any point when you are talking to them they turn their head, it may be a signal that they need a bit of time to process what’s going on, some quiet time or simply a cuddle.
Over time you will become an expert in reading your baby’s cues, which can at times be very subtle. You will learn to pick up on their signals before your baby even starts to cry. Some babies can tolerate more stimulation than others in the early days. Normally two caregivers are enough for your baby to get used to, while you slowly introduce visitors. Monitoring your baby’s cues is key, and it’s quite normal for your baby to only tolerate brief periods with guests at first.
Another area to look at is your home environment; some babies cannot tolerate bright lights, or artificial lights. An infant’s exposure to television, iPads and screens should be kept to a minimum. It’s quite easy to be cuddling your baby with your phone in one hand, the whole time over stimulating your baby without even realising it. So be mindful of this.
A great habit to get into from the beginning is reducing any stimulus leading up to bedtime. After a certain point any night feeds should be in the room where the baby sleeps, with little or ideally no artificial light. This gives a huge advantage when teaching your baby the difference between night and day. Parents tell me that they also benefit from this and feel less over stimulated, resulting in sleeping better.
When you reduce screens you tend to automatically reduce noise. This is a key area to be mindful of. Some babies can tolerate more noise than others, but as a rule try to reduce this in the evening. Start to speak more softly and quietly to your infant, and over time this will help them learn the difference between night and day.
Finally, the stimulation your baby is exposed to will impact on the way they feel, and just like us sometimes they are in the mood for quiet. Learning to see the world through your baby’s eyes is something that can be applied to every element of parenting and will lead to your baby feeling understood.