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  • Baby Crying for No Reason? He May Be Having Sensory Overload

    Many different things happening all at once may be too much for your child
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
Baby Crying for No Reason? He May Be Having Sensory Overload
PHOTO BY @FluxFactory/iStock
  • You will often read in parenting articles how important it is to stimulate a child’s senses to support his growth and encourage brain development. There are a number of ways to do this; for example, to stimulate his sense of taste, you could introduce food with different textures. To develop his sense of sight, expose him to images in high contrast, and so on.

    For a parent, it feels so rewarding to be able to do something that you know is helping him fulfill his potentials, so much so that sometimes, we may overdo it without realizing it. When this happens, we may find ourselves faced with a child who has sensory overload.

    What is sensory overload?

    For a baby or a young child especially, being exposed to many different stimuli at the same time can be overwhelming. For example, a baby who is used to the peace and quiet at home may become cranky if that peace is disturbed when people start carrying or talking to him in a family gathering. If your baby begins to act up, he’s probably unable to cope with all the stimuli around him. Note that overstimulation can happen to children at any age, although it is of course more difficult for them to adjust when they are much younger. 

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    Signs of sensory overload

    Each child reacts to sensory overload in different ways, but here are some general signs that a baby is overstimulated:

    • crankiness
    • clenches his hands
    • seems to want to turn away from you
    • cries louder than usual, cannot be pacified
    • does jerky movements

    You may also notice your child being hyper than usual (as a result of the stimuli) and start behaving aggressively. While our first reaction as parents may be to tell him to calm down, keep in mind that they do not know exactly at this age how to deal with what they are feeling. Thus, they cry and act up.

    How to help your child calm down

    Your baby will need your help to decompress in moments when he is having sensory overload. Here are some steps you can take to help him relax.

    1. Take him away from the situation.

    If it’s a noisy living room, bring him to the bedroom. Minimize the sounds and turn off the lights to help him relax. If it’s a crowded party venue, take him outside where he can breathe fresh air, and go for a walk. 

    2. Try swaddling him.

    Swaddling young babies gives them the sensation that of being in the womb, where everything was calm and comfortable. If this will help him relax, do it.

    3. Carry him.

    Often, the mere presence of mom and the warmth of her body enveloping baby is all he needs to calm down and be soothed.

    4. Learn to balance downtime and activity time.

    This is something you will learn as you continue to get to know your child. You will discover what kind of stimuli he likes, and which ones may be too much for him. Find that balance to avoid similar episodes in the future.

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