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Babies and overstimulation

Babies and overstimulation

What is overstimulation?

As parents we want to stimulate our children, help them develop and learn new things. Stimulating your child by playing and talking with them is very important to a baby’s overall development. However, overstimulation can occur when a child is overloaded by to many experiences, sensations, noise and activity than they are able to cope with. Overstimulation from the environment can result in sensory overload for the baby. 

What causes overstimulation?

Overstimulation can be caused by different factors or a combination of different factors. Children, as well as adults, are stimulated through hearing, sight, smell and taste and touch. Stimulation through these different sensors can cause a sensory overload for both babies and adults. As adults, we are not as sensitive and have better control of situations that create external stimulation. As parents we have to be aware of how much external stimulation our child can handle. 

Loud noise and sounds from multiple sources all at once, such as several people talking at the same time, can overstimulate babies hearing. Having the TV, the radio and the washing machine on at the same time, can create an uncomfortable environment. The baby’s sight is affected when in a crowded space, seeing new people or exposed to bright lights. Placing a child in an environment with lots of movement can cause overstimulation. Strong scent and spicy food can overstimulate babies smell and taste. Being touched by someone you are not familiar with can be uncomfortable and can affect relevant sensors in a negative way.

Signs of overstimulation in babies

It is extremely important to pay attention to your baby’s signals and learn what affects their wellbeing and mood.

The body can show a sign of sensory overload by a change in skin color, from normal to bright red or pale. The body can also show a change in movements like tremors or jerks and subtle changes in breathing patterns.

Change in behaviour can also be a sign of overstimulation, like crying or a sudden mood change. If your baby’ starts rubbing their eyes, covering their face with their hands or spacing out and looking away from you then it's a wise to pay extra attention to their behaviour. Other signs can be if you child avoids eye contact, covers ears to block out sound or covers eyes around bright lights. General irritation or over sensitivity can be the result of overstimulation.