Is My Baby Overstimulated?

I know I’m supposed to be talking and playing with baby, but how do I know if I’m overdoing it?
profile picture of Bonnie Vengrow
ByBonnie Vengrow
Contributing Writer
Updated
Feb 2017
Hero Image
Photo: Getty Images

Yep, it’s important to talk to your baby, says Lisa M. Asta, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Early exposure to rhymes and word play are important for language development.”

Other good stimulation for a newborn includes taking long walks together; making exaggerated facial expressions, like an extra-wide smile (sticking out your tongue is totally okay too); and simply making eye contact with her (babies are fascinated with faces). Then, you should introduce age-appropriate activities. For example, around four months, when baby’s mastering raking and grabbing, give her a rattle to shake and a teething toy to gnaw. Once she’s able to pull herself up and stand — usually around 9 to 11 months — give baby a wooden spatula and an empty pot to hit with it, which helps her develop small and gross motor skills and learn cause and effect.

But you’re right — you can totally overdo it. Sometimes baby will need breaks from all that stimulation, since it can be really overwhelming to, for example, go to the grocery store on a busy Saturday morning. “You can’t go at it the way you can when it’s just grown-ups,” she says. “It’s going to be different because of the needs of babies and the differences with their schedules. You have to be able to change courses quickly to meet your child’s needs.”

Look for signs of overstimulation. “Depending on what’s going on, they may get fussy, withdrawn or hyperactive, and an older baby may cling or hit,” Asta says. As soon as you notice those signs, it’s time for some peace and quiet.

Related Video

That includes social situations. While hanging out with your friends or extended family is low-pressure for you, being in a room full of strangers may be too much for baby at first. Before passing baby around the room, let her settle into a meet-and-greet by watching you talk to the other grown-ups for a while. You might have to cut the visit shorter than you usually do too.

Also, don’t plan something stimulating at a time she’s used to napping. A tired baby who’s also overstimulated is a basket case, so respect her schedule, keep an eye out for signs of sleepiness and follow a consistent routine at nap and bedtime. “Baby’s day has to have downtime touchstones to give that sort of time-out message, that now we’ll read a book and not do something stimulating,” Asta explains. “We’ll sing a song, pull down the shade, put you in the crib with your lovie, and now it’s time to relax.”

And forget the iPad and baby apps — they’re extremely stimulating, and doctors don’t recommend screen time for kids under three. Instead, stick with the basics, like a pot and spoon.

Plus, more from The Bump:

 

Mayim Bialik Just Laid Down the Law Against Spanking (WATCH)

Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
08/28/2017

Kristen Bell Reveals Why She Makes Her Daughters Share a Room

Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
03/05/2020

Toddler Screaming?

Elizabeth Pantley
Parenting Expert

What a Stranger’s Comment About Her Toddler’s Tantrum Taught This Mom

Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
06/27/2017

Too Much Tech: Parental Phone Use Linked to Child Misbehavior

Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
06/02/2017

Should I Worry About My Toddler’s Short Attention Span?

Michael Lee, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center and pediatrician at Children’s Medical Center Dallas
Pediatrician

Armless Pilot Jessica Cox Meets Toddler Born Without Arms

Cassie Kreitner
Senior Editor
Published
07/30/2015

Mobile Screen Time Starts Early, Study Finds

Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Advertisement