Understanding the Sensory World of the Newborn | Babysense
Category_Advice & Tips>Baby>Ages & Stages>1-3 Months

Understanding the Sensory World of the Newborn

Wouldn’t caring for your baby be so much easier if you understood how your tiny bundle experiences the world? Well, by looking at a baby’s sensory world, we can much better understand and cater for our young baby’s sensory needs. It makes sense that caring for your baby with concern about how he experiences the world will help him both be content and develop optimally. In the same way that your baby is dependent on you for milk (nutrition) and love (nurturing), he needs you to help him cope with and make sense of the sensory environment. In the early days most babies have some difficulty dealing with all the new sights, sounds, smells and feels of the world outside the womb. Many babies become over stimulated with just an average day’s stimulation, resulting in prolonged crying (or colic). Your baby needs you to watch for signs of overstimulation and fussing and to calm his environment if need be. Responding appropriately when your baby is over stimulated and fussing will save you both distress and feelings of desperation that every mother when her baby cries for an extended period. How to respond: Hold your baby quietly and firmly Calm his environment to ensure he does not become further over stimulated Tuck his arms in or swaddle him in a blanket Play some calming music for your baby Put him in a baby sling close to you Give him something to suck such as a pacifier or his hands to help him calm The early days of fussing soon pass and your baby soon becomes more alert and is awake for longer periods but don’t be fooled, babies need an inordinate amount of sleep. The young baby is prone to overstimulation after just an hour and a half of awake time. After six months of age, your baby will manage to happily interact for two and a half to three hours as he approaches his first birthday. Your baby’s growing brain needs stimulation to develop optimally and you can stimulate him via the sense of sight, sound, touch, movement and taste. Give your baby opportunities to explore his world and have a variety of bought and home made toys available for interactions. Talk to your baby lots and use massage to help your baby learn through his sense of touch. Just remember that in the case of stimulation more is not always better. Time stimulation for when your baby can most benefit from the interaction, not when he is tired and irritable. By understanding your baby’s sensory world, you will nurture a baby who is more content but who also learns optimally from his world. Fussing signals Irritability Looking away from you Squirming Arching his back or neck Frantic movements Frowning Hiccups and colour changes around the mouth may be signs of distress Gagging Crying By Sr Ann Richardson Sr Ann Richardson is the author of Toddler Sense and also co-authored Baby Sense and Sleep Sense. She is a qualified nurse and midwife and has worked in the midwifery and paediatric fields for 30 years. For more information from Sr Ann Richardson go to www.toddlersense.com or email her at info@toddlersense.co.za
Your baby’s secret language | Babysense
Breast Feeding

Your baby’s secret language

Wouldn’t it be great if your baby came with a manual! One of the hardest tasks of the early days is to understand your new baby’s language. While each baby is unique most babies shared a common unspoken language in the early days. Reflective function or the ability to read and understand your baby and respond appropriately is the most important skill of early mothering. By reading your baby well you will know what he is feeling and thus how to respond. Your baby will feel secure in the knowledge that he is understood and bonding is enhanced. If your baby is feeling happy and ready for interaction, he will make eye contact, coo and smile (if he is old enough). When your baby shows these signals, you know that stimulation and interaction will be well received. In this state, the calm alert state, your baby will be making connections in his brain and learning will occur optimally. Your baby is happy and calm. On the other end of the continuum is the crying state. This signal is obvious and no explanation of what crying sounds like is needed. Your response to the cry will determine how long your baby will cry for. When your baby cries, first respond by asking why: Is he hungry? – feed if three to four hours have passed. Younger babies or those not gaining weight may need more frequent feeds. Is he comfortable? – look at the temperature of the room and whether your baby is appropriately dressed. Is he ill? - if your baby has been the a cheerful fellow and the crying is excessive or out of character, take him to your doctor to rule out illness Is he tired? – babies need to sleep very frequently. Be sure to watch his awake times and put your baby to sleep frequently before he becomes overtired. Reference Baby Sense for how long your baby can be awake between sleeps for his age. Is he over stimulated? – this is the most common cause of crying and requires you to remove him from the stimulating environment and give him down time with calming activities. Long before your baby starts to cry due to over stimulation he will give warning signals that he has had enough. A new born will descend to crying and a toddler to chaos if you miss these signals. By watching for your baby’s signals you can respond before he begins to cry: Sucking hands Looking away and loosing interest in toys Holding hands together in the midline Grizzling or moaning Arching his back Pushing you or a toy away These warning signals are important forms of communication that help your baby keep himself calm and well regulated. When you see these signals, help your baby calm himself by letting him suck on his hands, giving him a dummy or removing him from the busy environment that is stressing him. You baby may also be tired and need to be put down for a sleep. Watch for your baby’s precious signals and respond appropriately, giving him the security that you respond to his needs. By Meg Faure
Your baby’s unique sensory personality | Babysense
Category_Advice & Tips>Baby>Ages & Stages>1-3 Months

Your baby’s unique sensory personality

You have no doubt at least once in your life as a parent, compared your little one to a friend’s baby and wondered if you were doing it all wrong when your baby wouldn’t settle or sleep as well as hers. On the other hand, if you are getting it right and have a really easy baby who is sleeping through, you may be patting yourself on the back and thinking that you must have the secret to a content little one. The question is whether it has more to do with your baby’s personality or with you and how you parent him. Any mother who has more than one baby will tell you: every baby is different. Even twins born with the same genes and reared in the same home by the same parents differ in their response to life. One twin may be quiet and slow to engage while the next is as social and bubbly as can be. Whether your baby is a settled baby or a fractious, irritable chap probably has more to do with who he is than you realize. Let’s explore the four sensory personalities, how these affect sleep, development and mood and how your sensory personality fits with your baby’s. Social butterfly The social butterfly loves interacting with others and his world. He is a more alert baby and seems to be constantly on the move. He is not happy when left alone for long because he just loves being in the company of others. These babies love to be carried around and you may find yourself getting frustrated that you never have your hands free. Your social butterfly has limitless energy and is a bundle of fun. A walk in the shops takes twice as long with a social butterfly because he makes eye contact with strangers and invites interaction and smiles from everyone. As a toddler, these babies tend to be busy and a little impulsive. Life with a social butterfly is never dull but can be exhausting, especially in the toddler years. Sensory Brain - The social butterfly loves sensory input and stimulation through the senses, which he uses to interact happily. If he gets too little stimulation, he can become grumpy as he is not getting enough information from his world. Slow to warm up baby Some babies just take longer to adjust to anything new. They are sensitive to change and take a while to get accustomed to unfamiliar sensory information so appear to be withdrawn at first. But unlike the sensitive baby who is fractious, the slow to warm up baby is calm as long as he is near mummy or daddy or in a predictable environment. As older babies and toddlers, they may be known as Velcro babies because they are happiest when next to mum or on her lap. Your slow to warm up baby loves his routine and is easily upset by changes in his schedule because routines make his life predictable. A slow to warm up baby with no routine may be more difficult to manage and they tend to need to be soothed through close contact (carrying or feeding). As older children, slow to warm up babies are quiet and a little anxious when out of their comfort zone. They are shy and tend to withdraw rather than embrace novel and unpredictable situations. Once they are comfortable with a friend or in an environment they warm up and can be the life of the party. Sensory Brain - The slow to warm up baby’s brain is sensitive to new sensory information and is easily overwhelmed by new sensory input and novelty. As his brain gets used to a new sensation and your baby has determined it is not threatening, it begins to filter and so your little one will settle down and is calmer. Since he is initially sensitive to sensation he tends to avoid situations that are new and potentially overwhelming. Your little one will like predictability and being with people he knows. Settled baby Your settled baby is much more laid back than others. He is an easygoing, happy chap. He is flexible and sleeps and feeds with ease wherever he is. Your settled baby copes well with stimulation and interaction and to changes in his routine. By a few weeks old, the settled baby will be starting to fit into a routine; he may well be sleeping through the night and is generally content. The settled baby’s development may be a little slower than other babies: there is no rush to roll or crawl because the settled baby is quite content to lie back and watch the world go by. As a toddler this baby is as happy at home reading books as he is going out and about. Sensory Brain - The settled baby’s brain has a natural capacity to filter a lot of sensory information. These babies don’t even register some sensory input, unless it is a clear and strong sensory input: sounds are filtered so your baby is not easily woken by noise; touch is filtered so a dirty nappy does not bother your baby at all. Sensitive baby Some babies are just more fussy and sensitive. These babies often take a long time to settle and are colicky for quite some time. Parenting a sensitive baby is a challenge at times. Breastfeeding often gets off to a rough start with these babies because they are sensitive to the feel of your nipple, the touch of your skin and the smell and tastes involved in breastfeeding. They are best fed in a quiet room, with dim lighting soon after a sleep, when they are calmest. Your sensitive baby does not learn to self-calm as rapidly as other babies. In addition your attempts to calm him may be a challenge. Often sensitive babies act as though they do not like being swaddled (they are sensitive to the blanket and pressure) and do not take to dummies (they are sensitive in their mouths too). It is important with sensitive babies to persist with swaddling and sucking strategies because this will make your life much easier. The sensitive baby is very tuned into their world. Sensory Brain - All sensory input is perceived with greater intensity by the brain. Your baby may feel as you do in a dark alley – like all sounds, touches and sights are a potential threat. He needs to have the sensory environment filtered for him, especially as a newborn. By Meg Faure

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