Stimulation and interaction are essential for the overall development of babies. It is necessary to talk and play with your little one often, as sensory experiences play a crucial role in the baby’s overall development, by building connections between learning and brain cells. Overdoing it, however, is not beneficial as it may disturb the baby’s sleep besides hampering the emotional engagement. It is essential to identify when the baby reaches his limit and feels over-stimulated.
Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, Infant Mental Health Promotion director Chaya Kulkarni says, an occasional misreading of baby’s cues of overstimulation is inevitable and not a concern. But, “there’s always the chance that if the parent repeatedly doesn’t respond — if you continue trying to play the game or ignore his distress — the baby will zone out, withdraw, or mentally retreat,” she adds.
MomJunction helps you understand how to identify and avoid overstimulation.
What Is Overstimulation In Babies?
Overstimulation is a condition where your baby has had an overload of experiences. Babies may get over-stimulated due to a lot of activity, noise, and sensation, as they cannot process it all. They need some time to calm down. An overstimulated baby ends up crying, and dramatic meltdowns are observed.
Causes of Overstimulation
Let us check for the primary culprits of overstimulation. Anything too much is too bad. Your little one may get overstimulated if he is exposed to too long activity; spends a long time with friends or relatives; is exposed to loud sounds, busy sights, pungent smells, or technology; or if his routine gets disturbed. It also depends on the temperament of the little one. Some babies are easy-going, while some are easily overwhelmed. An activity or environment can be entertaining for some babies, but overwhelming for others. Duration and intensity of an activity can also contribute to overstimulation.
Newborns may get stimulated even faster as they do not have matured nervous systems to regulate many things that are flooding into it. Even the simplest of acts like feeding, handling, talking, and making an eye contact can overwhelm a neonate. Every simple thing is incomprehensible and new for the infant as all of them are different from what the baby experienced in the mother’s womb. You will have to wait for many months for your baby’s system to mature enough to regulate things.
Now that we know a few causes for overstimulation, it is important to look out for signs to stop your little one from getting overstimulated.
11 Signs Of Overstimulation (SOS) In Babies
The baby sends signs of overstimulation (SOS) and you will have to understand them to avoid it. SOS can be classified into two types like Body SOS and Behavioral SOS.
Body SOS: An overstimulated baby may show body SOS like:
- change in skin color from normal to bright red or pale
- change in movements like showing tremors or jerks
- subtle changes in breathing patterns like breathing fast
Behavioral SOS: The Behavioral SOS include:
- rubbing eyes
- spreading toes and fingers
- covering his face with hands
- spacing out (looking away from you)
- trying to switch off (turns head away from you)
- becomes fussy, cranky, or drowsy (shutting down)
- stiffens up instead of relaxing
- shows over attention or hyper-vigilant
Pay attention to his responses and if you observe any of these SOS, decrease stimulation and increase support. Low down the tone and speak slowly. Simply holding the baby for few minutes should do the trick. You may try swaddling the baby, encourage him to suck, or simply sway the little one. All babies can get overstimulated now and then, but preterm babies or the ones with physical challenges frequently send SOS.
5 Ways To Avoid Overstimulation
Studies indicate that baby overstimulation leads to behavioral differences and deficits in cognitive performance (1). So it is better to avoid it and is not that difficult. The key lies in aiming at the right balance. It can be achieved by following guidelines.
1. Keep an eye on early warning signs
Responding to the early warning signs from your baby is essential to avoid a crying and stressed out baby. Too much fun can cause overstimulation irrespective of the time of the day, and the baby may need a break. Figure out the signs and respond.
2. Time it well
Remember that timing means everything! Figure out the best time for your baby to be alert, content, and interested in socializing and plan accordingly. Most kids are happiest in the mornings and after afternoon naps. Check out the suitable time for your baby and go ahead with the activity or outing.
3. Preparation is the key
Plan your outings or gatherings well, so that the baby do not get overwhelmed. Take snacks, extra clothing, favorite toys, light blankets, and other essentials, if you are moving out with your baby. Head to a quiet place if your baby is sensitive to crowds. Know your baby cues and share them with other family members handling the baby.
4. Take breaks
Plan well and ensure that your little one is prepared for the fun. He should have some time in the middle to communicate with you if he wants to. If you notice that your baby is too excited or tired, have little quite time with him during breaks. Ensure that your baby is ready and shows engagement clues before finishing the break. These breaks are useful in avoiding overstimulation.
5. Say ‘No’ to technology
Say ‘No’ to iPad and baby apps that are too stimulating. Doctors do not recommend screen time for babies. Stick to basics, like a pot and spoon.
How To Deal With Overstimulated Babies?
If your little one has reached the limit, hold him close to you and soothe to reassure him calmly. A few babies may not like to be touched or picked if the situation is very stimulating. In such cases, take the baby to a quite place, dim the lights, and minimize the activity. Swaddle him or talk gently. Offer him a feed or pacifier. He will settle down in some time.
Get back to his schedule. See to it that he sleeps, feeds, and plays. This consistency works wonders in babies. Stick to schedules to make him feel secure, loved, and attached.
Above all, the best thing you can do is to trust your instinct. You are the best person to judge what is too much for your baby and what is needed to calm him down.
5 Benefits Of Avoiding Overstimulation
While it may seem like you have to put a lot of effort and spend a lot of time in guessing and avoiding overstimulation in your baby, it can be helpful in many ways.
- The baby feels secure and develops confidence in you.
- A little prevention can hugely help in keeping everyone around happy, besides your baby.
- You can prevent unsuccessful time-outs or bribes to calm down your baby.
- It will get easy to work with the little one’s natural rhythms and abilities.
- Everyone around can have fun and the baby would enjoy growing up happily.
1. Why does an overstimulated baby cry a lot?
A. When the baby is overstimulated, he may get too tired as he is awake for a longer time, which makes him cry as he struggles to relax.
2. Can my baby overcome overstimulation?
A. Yes, babies can overcome overstimulation as they grow. When the baby learns to crawl and move around, he can create his own change in stimulation. Until then, you have to help him by frequently carrying him with you. If you keep your little one down, ensure that you provide objects within reach, good music, or colorful things to look at.
While the basic temperament remains consistent in babies, the reactions may change over time. As the baby grows, he develops the skill to deal with things and becomes social. An activity that is overwhelming for a nine-month baby may turn his favorite after a few months.
3. Is under stimulation possible in babies?
A. Yes, under stimulation occurs when the environment is familiar and boring for the baby. It is a situation where the baby may be intellectually starved and may be stressed as a result of it. This could be a result of the lack of new toys or experiences. Follow your baby’s own cues to find out if he is crying due to under stimulation or overstimulation.
We hope you would be comfortable in understanding your baby’s cues and respond accordingly. If you have more experiences or suggestion in dealing with an over-stimulated baby, do share with fellow mommies by commenting below.
When Will Your Baby Develop The Pincer Grasp?
It is thrilling to see your baby accomplish developmental milestones! While most parents look for common ones like ‘rolling over’ or ‘walking’, a multitude of them are cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Pincer grasp is one of them.
According to Claire Lerner, parenting resources director at Zero to Three, a national nonprofit organization promoting healthy development for infants and toddlers, “Getting the pincer grasp is one of the biggest keys to independence. Eventually, a child will use this grasp to do essential things like feed and dress herself and brush her teeth.” MomJunction tells you how babies develop pincer grasp, and the activities and toys you can use to develop this skill in them.
What Is Pincer Grasp?
A pincer grasp is a kind of finger-hold that your baby will start developing between 9 and 12 months of age. She will use the index finger and thumb together to squeeze an object before grasping and picking it up. It helps your little one understand how to pick up things. Once she learns to use pincer grasp or pincer grip, she can successfully feed herself with fingers and can use a spoon. Gradually, the skills refine, and the little one learns to pick things with both hands.
How Do Babies Develop Pincer Grasp?
Babies can grasp things right from the time of birth. It is a reflex action in the first few months, called palmar grasp. The baby learns to hold anything in the palm by wrapping her fingers and thumb around it from one side (1). The palmar grasp gradually develops into pincer grasp, which is a developmental milestone. Here is how she develops her grasping skills through the months:
During the first two months, the little one keeps her hands clenched in a fist. She can curl her tiny fingers around yours as an instinct, to hold on to them tightly. This reflex slows down by the time she is three months old.
Now, the hand-eye coordination begins to develop, where she attempts to notice things and might even try to reach out for them. In the three-four month period, she can hold a toy or block. She may not grasp accurately but can bat. She may hold a rattle for a few seconds and can rake an object towards her.
By now, the palmar grasp becomes a voluntary skill. Five or six-month-old babies intentionally grip objects with this grasp. Your little angel attempts to pick an object, cover it with her hand, and squeeze into her fist. It includes the usage of the whole hand to grasp, pick, and hold an object. Once she masters in clutching larger objects in her palm, she will concentrate on gaining adeptness in her fingers in the coming months.
Between seven and nine months, your baby can use all the fingers and thumb to grasp a small toy. At nine months, she will be able to pass an object from one hand to the other. Eventually, the baby learns pincer grasp between nine and 12 months, in a direct route for picking things. It is a way of getting the index finger and thumb together as if to pinch.
Based on how well the baby can pick things using a pincer grasp, it is classified into two stages.
Inferior or crude pincer grasp: It is an initial stage where the baby uses the pads of the index finger and thumb to pick little things. It may last for 10 months from when the reflex begins.
Superior or neat pincer grasp: It is an advanced stage of the reflex, also called as fine pincer grasp, developed between 10 and 12 months. The baby can pick things using the tip of the index finger and thumb. Next, the baby will develop the lateral pincer grasp to hold an object between the side of the index finger’s mid-joint and the thumb.
Help your baby develop a more mature pincer grasp by trying the below-listed activities.
Pincer Grasp Activities To Help Your Babies
Encouraging the pincer grasp skill simply means allowing the little explorer to investigate a lot with fingers. Let her enjoy touching and manipulating toys or household objects.
Finger Foods: Allow your little one to try a few cheerios or soft finger foods such as cooked carrots or peas on her high chair. Place small food items like cheerios, raisins, etc., inside an ice cube tray compartments and challenge her to pick them using pincer grasp. Use tiny sock gloves which oblige her to use just the index finger and thumb. Keep away hard foods like raw carrots and nuts to avoid choking hazard.
Strengthen The Index Finger: Pointing or poking some object with the index finger is the initial stage of the pincer grasp.
- Encourage your little one to point out pictures in books or body parts.
- Let her push the play dough to make holes in it or push foods in her tray.
- Allow her to push buttons.
- Let her pull something out of your pocket and push something inside it.
- Let her enjoy pulling out tissues from a box.
Practice With Household Objects: The little one needs ample of practice.
- Simple kitchen items such as measuring cups and spoons, bowls, etc., are always a means of fun learning while playing.
- Allow the baby to drop objects into containers and help her learn to separate them. This aids muscle movements of the hand, wrist, and individual fingers.
- Stick a paper to the table or on the floor and allow your baby to scribble with crayons or a marker. Do not worry if she cannot hold it steadily. She is still in the process of developing her fine motor skills.
Toys To Encourage Babies In Using Pincer Grasp
- Toys or objects such as dials to turn, switches to flip, can be good pincer grasp toys, which help babies in developing skills needed to get the pincer grasp.
- Playing with toys, which need squeezing or pulling apart will be helpful. Balls of varying sizes and textures encourage the baby to push or squeeze. They help in the development of the infant’s hand muscles and the ability to co-ordinate them.
- Allow the baby to play with toys like stacking rings and alphabet blocks of varying shapes, sizes, and textures. Let her pick them, throw, pick again, stack, or knock them down. She may even clap them together.
Be extra careful. Keep choking hazards out of your little angel’s reach. Present one or two items at a time for practice. Too many things may tempt her to use ‘less mature raking grasp’, as she attempts to pick all of them at once, using all the fingers.
What Happens After The Pincer Grasp Development?
Once the pincer grasp is developed, grasping becomes precise. Babies explore more by shaking, moving, throwing, and rotating. Mouth is no longer their primary sensory preceptor. They use both the hands to determine the size, hardness, texture, weight, and other properties.
Pincer grasp helps in later activities such as writing, coloring with crayons, cutting with scissors, and so on. The child’s preference for using left or right hand emerges slowly, although it can completely develop by two or three years.
When Should You Worry?
Every baby reaches milestones at his or her own pace. If your baby is not catching up or attempting for a pincer grasp, she is probably not ready for it yet. Give more time and do not pressurize the little one. While achieving milestones is important, understanding a baby’s developmental stages is equally important! Consider it as a matter of concern if your child is not using the pincer grasp by 12 months. Get an evaluation done to assess her fine motor skills and check if she needs an occupational therapy.
Note that premature babies reach milestones a bit later than their peers. Other possible causes of delayed or absent pincer grasp can be genetic disorders like cerebral palsy and autism. Check with the pediatrician to clarify your worries or doubts.
Hope our post helped you learn about pincer grasp. Tell us when your baby began trying the pincer grasp. Did you attempt any particular activity to encourage your baby or take any measures to ensure that your baby had enough chances to practice? Share your experiences in the comments section below to help other moms.
Why Do Some Babies Crawl Backwards?
Seeing your baby crawl for the first time is priceless, even though her attempt may not be perfect! Sometimes babies crawl backward before crawling forward (1), which is absolutely normal. With time, she will discover a way to propel herself forward by learning how to balance, and by maintaining a coordination of her legs and arms.
Crawling backwards does not right away suggest any disorder (such as autism). As along as your little one can move across the floor with each leg and arm, you do not have to worry. Indeed, it can take a little time to get any thing to get good, and crawling is not an exception. MomJunction tells you why ‘babies crawling backward’ is not a cause of worry.
Why Does A Baby Crawls Backwards?
Crawling is part of an infant’s gross motor development, which refers to big muscle movements such as the ability to sit, walk, and run. Though seemingly simple, these gross motor skills require nerves, muscles, and bones to work in tandem and well.
When your little one begins to crawl, usually between six and nine months (2), she may choose the easiest and the most efficient way such as the commando crawl, in which she shuffles around her tummy. If the little one finds it easy to crawl back, she may opt for it for many reasons.
- If the baby feels stronger on arms than on legs, she will push herself back and crawl backward or scoot backward (3).
- The upper bodies of babies are more developed than the lower ones, which is another reason for babies crawling backward.
- Babies who push more on arms tend to push themselves back.
When her legs get stronger, the little one begins to crawl forward. Even if she skips to crawl forward or skips crawling altogether, it is completely normal. It does not mean that she has missed a milestone. Note that preterm babies may take more time than their peers to reach such milestones. Sometimes, infants who are above the normal weight may take more time to crawl, than other healthy ones.
How To Encourage My Baby To Crawl Forward?
Your angel will learn to crawl forward on her own. If you wish to stop your little one from crawling backwards, indulge in a few activities to encourage her.
- Put her favorite toy a little out of reach in front of her and encourage to crawl towards it. She may struggle but do not jump out for rescue. Let her try. As she tries, the muscles required for crawling forward get strong.
- Get yourself down on the floor and show her how to crawl forward. You could be funny as you do that.
- Once your baby comes to a crawling position, gently propel her forward by placing your hand on her bottom.
- Try moving her legs and arms to get the feeling of moving forward.
- Entice your little one forward with her favorite food.
- Use tummy time mats for your baby to practice crawling.
- Your little one needs loads of praises and encouragement from you to learn something new. Shower them and see the difference.
However, remember not to force the baby. It should be fun for your baby to learn to walk and crawl. Also, do not compare your little one with other babies of her age. She may be slightly ahead or behind them. You should let her grow at her own pace. Bear in mind that backward crawling or whatever will be a matter of past after a few months as your little angel will be walking and running around then!
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