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The Overstimulated Baby

August 16, 2018

I'm standing in my living room- endlessly swaying, bouncing, shushing, patting. It's 9:30pm. She's been fussing and fighting sleep since about 5:30pm. Her evening nap is usually at 8:30pm, and we're way past that now. 



I've tried everything. Gripe water, nursing, baby massage. My back hurts from not being able to sit down (she can tell and gets even more mad if I'm not standing). I made a salad 3 hours ago when I got her down for a whole 10 minutes... but that's now soggy. I preheated the oven for another meal I probably won't get to. My 3 month old's hair is wet in some spots from my tears of frustration. I'm not frustrated at her, I'm frustrated at myself.


Why is this so hard? Why does my baby seem so much more fussy than other babies? Let me just clarify, I love my daughter more than anything, and I always keep my patience in check when it comes to her. After all, it's not her fault she doesn't know how to speak yet and tell me what's wrong. It's not her fault, either, that she's my first baby and I'm learning as I go. 


But tonight it finally clicked. I noticed a pattern in my baby's evening fussiness.


A little back track first...

Eliana, from month 1 to 2 was fussy NON STOP. All day, every day. If she wasn't asleep or eating, she was crying. I'm not even exaggerating. 


But about a month ago I started breastfeeding from exclusively pumping, and I noticed a huge difference in her fussiness. She was only getting fussy in the evenings. Maybe it had to do with breastfeeding, maybe her central nervous system just matured a little more. I'll never know.


My husband works 6 days a week and I get lonely in my house with a newborn, so I go over to my parents house a lot. Well, the other night we stayed home all day. No store trips, no going to my parents, no visitors,. And I noticed at about the time she gets fussy (6pm to about 8:30pm) she wasn't fussy. She was quite pleasant, and even put herself to sleep for her evening 8:30 nap. I thought, maybe we're growing out of it!


Well, today I went to my parents house to visit and sure enough, when we got home, she had a hard time calming down. For 4 hours. And I suddenly realized, she always does this when we go somewhere. I'm overstimulating her. I've been overstimulating her, and I didn't even know it.


Apart from deciding, okay I'm never going anywhere again... I also feel horrible. How did I not know this? Why have I never heard of this before? And I know plenty of women who have/had babies. Why wasn't this brought up in my many posts about colick or PURPLE crying? That maybe it's just overstimulation? 


After asking on good ol' Facebook if fussiness after going somewhere is normal for infants... I recieved a big resounding YES. This was totally normal.


Knowing this could have saved me so much of my sanity. If I had known taking my baby somewhere for my own needs would compromise hers, I wouldn't have done it. I would have stayed home and stuck to a schedule, for her sake, until she could handle going to Target or to my parents house for a whole day. This may seem excessive to some, and maybe I just have an overly sensitive baby, but I can't tell you how many times I have spent HOURS each night trying to calm her down. Nursing her only for her to spit it all up because her tummy is upset from crying. Not eating or going pee because she can't be set down, because it will only make her more upset and that much harder to soothe. Hours of screaming, crying baby in my ear- and going through my list of comfort techniques to try and make it better.


So after this clicked in my head, I of course, I did some research (once I FINALLY got the baby down. She's actually asleep on my lap as I write this)


Causes of Overstimulation in Newborns:

•She is awake too long 

•She is held for too long 

•She is involved in too much activity 

•Her routine is disrupted


(Read the article I learned this from here) 



Some of these seem super obvious, like being awake too long and routine disrupted. But being held too long? Too much activity, like going places? I feel like a terrible mom for not knowing this. Am I the only mom who didn't know this?


The biggest one I realized was disrupting Eliana was too much activity. Even giggling at the ceiling fan for too long seems to overstimulate her, I mean she will go from giggling to crying in an instant. Well, here's what  the article said about that:


"It can be anything - too much visual stimulation, noise, smell, etc. While it may not be 'too much' according to you, realise that it was much quieter, darker, and neutral in your womb! Overstimulation because of too much activity is more likely to occur in presence of lot of family members or at social functions. It tends to make the baby uncomfortable, which is followed by a lot of crying."


Some mom friends on Facebook gave me some insight on the matter as well:


"My mom would say that a small outing to us is a huge outing to them, she might just be so sore/tired from the outing, maybe as sore as we get when we've worked an 8 hour shift and stood around all day. Try massaging her little body and a warm bath right when you get home to help her relax. Gripe water was my best friend for a long time, eventually she got bigger, stronger and stopped getting so fussy when we'd go out." -Bree 


"Short trips for now multiple times a week. They're little brains are soaking up so much new stuff its overwhelming. You are doing great! Everything is a learning experience and then you have a second kid that is nothing like the first. Lol. You got this!" 



All I'm saying is, though this information might seem obvious or well known to many- I had no idea. Maybe its because I wasn't raised with infants around, or maybe it's because I didn't read What To Expect In The First Year. I am willing to make myself look dumb to the seasoned parents if this helps a desperate new parent out there.


*if you're looking for suggestions, check out the source I quoted. They have more knowledge than I do on the matter!!


It turns out my baby wasn't colicky, she just gets overstimulated and can't calm herself down- maybe even more so because she was a preemie. So I have to help her do that... which is freaking hard and seems impossible at times. But now I know how to hopefully prevent it until she gets a little bigger and can handle more.


We're all doing great, mommas.

...And dadas ;)




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