My son is a definite people person. I can already tell this. When we walk out of the room in the mornings, he immediately looks around for people. When he hears the front door open he will contort himself in whatever position necessary to see who has arrived. Just last week he was in his car seat/stroller and, while in line at the grocery store, I could tell I was blocking his view from something. I moved over to the side and he smiled at the woman behind me.
He loves people. And he loves smiling at people.
But even my incredibly happy, friendly baby can become quite fussy or out of sorts when he’s been around large crowds or busy environments for too long.
He gets overstimulated. It’s totally normal for a baby to get overstimulated when there’s a lot going on around them. (So, brush off the people who keep asking “what’s wrong”!)
I’ve gotten to the point now where I will intentionally do things to prevent or keep overstimulation in crowds to a minimum. First of all, I keep him close. I’ll admit sometimes it takes a lot of work to get myself and baby out the door and to wherever we’re going. Sometimes I even cry a little (shhh). On days like this, it can be tempting to hand him off to willing arms just so I can get my bearings but that may not be what’s best for him. People may not always understand, but I’ve learned that hanging on to him for awhile is helpful.
Secondly, I rely on his cues to tell me when it’s ok to pass him off. If there’s too much going on, often times the baby will let you know this through fussing or even by being a little clingy. My son has recently started gripping me a little tighter and putting his head on my shoulder. He may do this while smiling but I know he is telling me not to hand him over. This generally happens when there is a lot going on around us.
Third, I remove him from the crowd. After awhile of being around a crowd or a highly stimulating environment, I will pull away with my son and have some one-on-one time. Sometimes it’s to feed him, other times we just cuddle and talk or play. These little time outs help immensely!
And, lastly, I try to be flexible! We recently had an extremely full day, with four activities in one day. I had my day planned out to the minute. How long I would stay at each event and when I needed to leave for the next. But, in between activities one and two I decided to throw my plans out the window! I felt like the best thing for my son would be some time at home and a much needed nap. Sure, he could have napped in the car but those naps don’t generally last as long and I knew with all of the events of the day he needed a good nap. So, I showed up unfashionably late. I was a little embarrassed but, in the end, I was glad I had made that call. The party we were attending ended up being very large and my little guy was very overstimulated. He had a great time and his overstimulation manifested itself in loud (very loud) screeches, which isn’t bad but had he not had that good nap it could have looked very different. I’m glad I was flexible and took preventative measures! (By the way, I did have to remove him from the crowd once at that party.)
An overstimulated baby can cause a lot of stress both for babies and adults but hopefully these tricks can help!
UPDATE 05/16: My son is now 11 months old and still gets overstimulated at times. And these tricks still hold true! Also, he still loves when people come to the door only now he bolts toward the door as fast as possible… on all fours.