Your baby can only benefit optimally from stimulation when it is balanced, varied and meaningful and occurs at a time when he can best utilize the sensory input. “…your baby can only benefit optimally from stimulation when it is balanced, varied and meaningful and occurs at a time when he can best utilize the sensory input..” Stimulation is important for brain development – of that we are sure. The connections (synapses) that are made between brain cells are vital for development. For example a connection in the language part of the brain will result in understanding of speech or in speech itself. Connections are mainly made between brain cells in the presence of stimulation. As important as stimulation is for development; we do not want to over stimulate our babies either. It’s a fine balance that we need to aim for. Here are a few guidelines on ‘sense-able’ stimulation:
- Appropriate stimulation at opportune times of the day is beneficial for your baby’s development. Choose a time of day when your baby has been fed and is well rested. This may possibly be after the early morning nap. In a content state, your baby will best benefit from stimulation activities.
- Overstimulation leads to fussiness, especially in young babies and is not beneficial. Watch your baby for signs of fussing and withdrawal and stimulate him only when he is calm and alert. While you are stimulating your baby he may start to show early signs of overstimulation, such as looking away, grizzling, high pitched shrieks and hand sucking. When you notice these subtle signals, stop the stimulation or remove your baby from the stimulus.
- Don’t over schedule your baby, rushing him from one activity to the next. Choose baby classes with care and thought and schedule them so they don’t interfere with your baby’s sleep times. An overtired baby will not enjoy or benefit from stimulation. As a rule of thumb: babies under three months need no additional stimulation groups, as they are very susceptible to overstimulation. Babies under six months don’t need extra stimulation in the form of a group but moms benefit immensely from meeting other moms in a group and getting ideas for stimulation or massage at home. Between six and twelve months one group a week suffices.
- Balance calming and stimulatory activities and link them to the time of day. Calm activities are important before sleep times. Keep stimulation for playtime during the day. When your baby shows signs of overstimulation, take him for a walk or put on soft calming music in this way the calming activity will also be beneficial to his development.