Saturday, June 19, 2010

18. Overstimulation: It Aint no Fun

After being pregnant for 9 months (really it is 10, thank you very much), the thought of playing with baby and smiling and laughing and all the other things you see babies do in commercials is exciting!

And you have all these toys and books and stuffed animals you got from showers and what not, so what is the hang up?

Some eager beavers end up overstimulating their baby. Instead of the sweet cooing from the Gerber ads, they end up with a screaming, tired but cannot go to sleep, eyes bugging out of their heads kind of baby. Not interested in going through that? No worries.

1. Pay attention to the average developmental makers. A fresh from the factory baby (1-4 weeks) does not need any toys or form of play. Looking at you and listening to you and cuddling is plenty. The whole world is new to him, so anything more than that is overkill. Much like your first IKEA shopping experience, it can be a little overwhelming.
2. Babies can only see so far. Sticking a bunch of toys in front of them or some crazy mobile is a waste when they are this young. Save those for 10 weeks or so.
3. At first babies only see in black and white (or so we've been told). Those colored flashcards you bought are a bit much for now.
4. Noises are new, too. Processing this brave new world is a lot of work for baby.Be mindful of over doing it on the noise factor.
5. Other people might freak baby out. Visitors are awesome, but too many in a row can cause overstimulation. New smells, new voices, this person to that can see how this is a lot for a brand new baby. Space it out as much as you can.
6. Let baby sleep. Newborns do not do tired well (neither do we, for that matter). If it is obvious your baby is exhausted-- yawning, a little fussy, tired looking eyes-- put baby down. I know Aunt Martha is coming over in 15 minutes but visit with her while baby naps. Do not keep your baby up when she is tired. This can cause overstimulation. And then an hour from now when Aunt Martha leaves and you try to put baby to sleep, do not wonder why she is keyed-up, screaming, and cannot fall asleep.

So what can baby handle? Here is a little guide
Weeks 1-4: when baby is awake, talk to him a little. No need to peek-a-boo or anything other than just normal conversation. Toys, flashcards, anything visual is unnecessary.
Weeks 4-8: towards the end of this stage, baby may start to hold his eyes open for a decent chunk of time and start looking around. New babies love light. Have a window in your den? Lay baby down on a blanket near the window. This is like a flat panel t.v. to a newborn. Who knew a window could be so fun!
Weeks 9-12: baby is now more interested in the world around him. He will stare at something and may even try to reach it or kick it. A simple toy (anything with a mirror is golden) that hangs over baby is great. Minimal movement is good. In other words, a toy that spins quickly= not good. Or flash cards= not best.

So what happens if baby does get overstimulated? Give him some space. Newborns cannot handle someone in their face babytalking them to death all day long. Over kill!! Baby may look away. That is code for get this out of my face, please. If someone is loving baby a little too much and you can tell your little one has had enough, just ask for baby back and let him chill. Take him to a quiet room for a few minutes. Or give him some time in his bouncy seat. Alone. He will feel much better.

Be mindful of outings. We took our newborn to a baseball game and her eyes about popped out of her head. So that she would not get overstimulated, we tried to shield her from the bright lights and noises as much as possible. Every now and then take baby to an area that isn't so busy. Little breaks can go a long way. And when you get home, give baby a little time to decompress. 

Flashing, blinking lights and loud noises. These toys are bad news. A child this small does not need all that busyness. If a toy has lights, turn that part off or take out the battery until baby is older. Like 12 months or so.
And get all those toys out of baby's crib. Confusing! Am I sleeping? Playing? What do you want me to do? Baby might not be able to sleep because there is too much going on in the crib. Keep it minimal.

To sum things up, do not over do it with visual and auditory stimulation. Flashcards for a 3 week old is like you going to Times Square on New Year's Eve. Instead of helping baby learn and develop, you are actually hindering him. His brain is on overload and he cannot take in anything else. Take cues from your baby of when enough is enough and you both will be so much happier.

Ahhh! Not too much, not too little

Help! It's a jungle in here!! Too much going on

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