When you have an overstimulated baby it can be hard for everyone involved. A baby who is overstimulated seems inconsolable. They might be purple crying, or screaming without even opening their eyes. You know that they are hungry, but they just cry and won’t latch. You know they are tired, but they just cry and won’t relax in your arms. An overstimulated baby can seem like a real test of your caregiving abilities.
We have compiled a list of what to do and what not to do to soothe this baby.
DO stay in the same room, and even better the same space in that room.
When we move to a new space the baby gets even more stimulation. New lighting, new smells, new sounds, new things to look at- it can be even more overwhelming. Pick the darkest corner with the least to look at and stay there.
Do NOT pass the baby onto another caregiver.
When a baby is overstimulated every movement is adding to the problem. A new caregiver is going to have their own style to how they rock, the sound of their “shhhhh”, and their own smell. Stick with one caregiver as long as they are able to handle the crying baby.
They only time the baby should be passed onto another caregiver is if they feel overwhelmed to the point they are worried about accidental shaken baby syndrome. If they feel overwhelmed and unsafe they should pass the baby onto another caregiver if possible. If not possible they should leave the baby in a safe space (like their crib), and then go to a different space where they can not hear the crying.
DO take a deeeep breath, exhaling all your tension.
Babies can feel your stress. You need to be the calm during the storm. A steady force of cool and collected caregiver will be much more helpful to soothe the baby. Another great technique is to wash your hands and picture all of the tension washing down the drain.
Do NOT keep trying new soothing techniques.
Remember that this baby has already had too much stimulation. Trying a diaper change, bottle, pacifier, rocking, swinging, ‘shhhh’ing, bouncing, then playing, is just going to make it worse. Stick with one technique and try it for a good 5-10 minutes at a time before moving onto the next method. The baby will need a few minutes to realize if they do or do not want it.
DO use the 5S’s to soothe the baby.
The 5S’s are Swaddle, stomach/side, swing, shush, and suck. Use these techniques, and your knowledge of what the baby typically likes. Remember to give the baby plenty of time to feel out what you're trying, and try each method slowly.
Do NOT be hard on yourself.
An overstimulated baby can have many causes. It is typically not a reflection of the caregiver. So be easy on yourself and understand that each challenge makes you better. Take the difficult moments to learn, grow, and become a better caregiver.