How To Identify and Soothe an Overstimulated Baby

Your baby is entirely new to all the sights, smells, and sounds of the world around them, and experiencing all these new things so rapidly can get overwhelming. Just like adults, babies can become overstimulated by too much sensory input. Because they’re still so new to the world, their tolerance for this sensory input is much lower than ours. However, unlike adults, they can’t communicate or let us know when they feel overstimulated. To help you meet your baby’s needs more easily, let’s review how to identify and soothe an overstimulated baby.

What Are the Signs of an Overstimulated Baby?

Some babies will look to any self-soothing method they know and behave like they’re just hungry to nurse. Some babies may want you to hold them, while others won’t. This can depend on your child’s temperament and where they are in terms of development. However, there are a few signs of overstimulation that all babies seem to have in common despite age and personality. These signs can be any combination of the following:

  • Clenching their fists, kicking, and waving their arms
  • Turning their heads away from the stimulation
  • Cover or rub their eyes or ears
  • Fussy, although they are clean, full, and aren’t overtired
  • Crying uncontrollably
  • Breathing faster, jerky movements, or frantically looking around

If your baby seems like their fight or flight reflex has kicked in, but nothing has suddenly startled them, they’re likely overstimulated. 

How Can I Soothe a Baby When They’re Overstimulated?

As mentioned, some babies will want the comforting touch of their guardian to calm down, while others won’t; it all depends on your baby’s temperament. First, remove them from the overstimulating environment, take them to a dim, quiet room, and try some skin-to-skin contact. You can also try swaying, rocking, or bouncing them, but try to make sure the space you’re in is as comfortable and free of stimulus as possible. If these tactics don’t work, your baby may need some quiet alone time instead of more touching and movement. 

There are plenty of no-touch strategies you can use to soothe your baby. Once you’ve laid them down in their safe space, you can try shushing them, playing some white noise, positioning their point of view near a blank wall, or giving them their favorite comfort item. Binkies, dummies, pacifiers, or whatever you like to call them, are good to have on hand for situations like this. One of the benefits of giving your baby a pacifier is that you can provide them with all of the soothing benefits of suckling and nursing without contact.

How Can I Prevent My Baby From Becoming Overstimulated?

Now that you know how to identify and soothe an overstimulated baby, you may wonder how to prevent your little one from becoming overstimulated in the future. Some children will just have lower tolerances for stimuli than others, and that’s okay. The important thing is to start looking out for what seems to make your baby fussy. Is it loud noises, getting passed around, too many colors, or toy options? When you’re able to recognize what affects your baby, it becomes easier to get them out of an overwhelming situation before it becomes a problem.


Candid Mama

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