What’s going on for baby?
Newborns are learning how to get their needs met in their new world. Through the messages they receive via their 5 senses, brain cells are busy connecting into pathways throughout their brain. By repeating experiences, pathways are strengthened and then become permanent.
Sometimes with so many new sensory experiences happening at once, or for too long, a newborn can easily become overstimulated. Premature babies are especially prone to ‘sensory overload’.
Most of newborns’ movements are uncontrolled reflexes. These have ‘survival value’ for a newborn, but over time are gradually replaced by conscious movements.
One of the first things baby can choose to do is move their eyes to look at something new — faces of familiar people are very popular. They are likely to first smile at around 6 weeks old.
How can parents and whānau help?
- During daily care routines, watch baby’s face and body movements and listen to their sounds and cries. This way they will learn their baby’s cues for hunger, pain, tiredness and feeling alone.
- Keep watching closely for signs baby has ‘had enough’ and may become overwhelmed.
- With premature babies, try to limit the amount of sensory stimulation going on around them. For example, don’t have the TV, stereo, bright lights and conversations all going on at once — especially if baby is showing signs of overstimulation.
- Swaddle or wrap baby firmly, similar to the way they were ‘contained’ before birth. This can help them feel safe and reduce startling reflexive movements, which can easily unsettle newborns.
- Enjoy baby’s smiles and respond by making eye contact, smiling and showing them how much they’re loved.
Baby’s smiles are the reward for the whānau for all their loving care and attention!