Humans babies are born premature compared to all other mammalian species. If we gestated for the same amount that most other primates do, we would be in the womb for 18 months, ouch!
What is important about this, is that babies are born with primitive nervous systems. They are born essentially still needing womb time. Which is why it's so important to have your baby skin to skin, and being held as much as possible for the first few months.
What does this have to do with babies being overstimulated? babies nervous systems are extremely primitive when they first come to the outside, and they need us to slow down to their pace, which is much slower than our adult pace. When things go too fast for a baby, and they can't integrate what is coming into their field, they get overwhelmed and often this follows with them falling asleep. Its one of their defenses to overstimulation.
How can we tell our baby is over stimulated?
Generally baby will respond behaviourally in the ways, I call it the 3 S's. Spacing out, switching off and shutting down. A baby who is overstimulated might look away from you (spacing out). If you continue to engage they might turn away again and again and also turn their body away( switching off), and then eventually if the overstimulation persists they will start to yawn, look sleepy and often fall asleep (shutting down).
Signs of overstimulation in your baby:
- averting their gaze (looking away)
- general tired, cranky, fussiness
- spreading fingers and toes, or making fists
- bringing her hands in front of her face
- skin colour changes from normal to pale or blotchy or red
- changes in body movement from smooth movements to jerks and tremors
- breathing quickens
- yawning, sneezing
- start sucking their fingers or thumb
- fall asleep (late stage of overstimulation)
What to do about it?
- reduce the stimulation
- take them to a quiet dimly lit room
- stop talking
- put them in a carrier if you are out
- go outside
- swaddle, rock your baby
- encourage sucking of some kind as this is comforting to your baby (breastfeed, use your finger, pacifier)
Only you know your baby, as you watch the signs you will get to know the signatures of how your baby lets you know they have had enough.