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  • Writer's pictureMegan Dunn

Is your baby sensory sensitive?


Some babies are very sensitive to sensory input. They may become more agitated or distressed than other babies when they hear loud noises or are around lots of people (auditory and visual systems), they may reaction to clothing labels (tactile system) which feels very uncomfortable, or they may need their milk at a specific temperature.

Observe your child to learn what they seek or avoid. They may feel and behave differently from one day to the next. Follow your child's lead and progress slowly to help them become used to sensory inputs that may be perceived as uncomfortable.

0-3 months

Tactile – how things feel

Babies prefer soft gentle touch need skin-to-skin contact, and relax in contact with a caregiver

• Skin-to-skin contact, touch with different textures; daily gentle massage

• Provide touch input during daily routines such as bath time and diaper changes

Vestibular - balance and movement


• Hold your baby in different ways. Soothe using movement such as rocking, swaying while holding

• Hold baby close to your body when picking up or laying down

Proprioception - body awareness


• Move arms & legs together and then apart during play (see "midline play)

• Play and carry in different positions

• Make sure to provide support when picking baby up and laying them down. Support their

entire body - ex. Hold them close to your body when you are laying them down and lean over as you are putting them down

Visual

Babies cannot see all colors at first; they prefer black and white and human faces.

• At 1 month, babies can focus short distances (approx. 1 foot).

• At 2 months, they can follow a toy when it is moved close to face. Eye movement is not yet

fully coordinated so may seem cross eyed at times; beginning to make eye contact.


• Simple patterns of black and white on toys, books; mobiles and overhead gyms

• Eye contact; smile at baby, read and sing to baby

• Carry baby so they can see where they/you are going

Olfactory - smell

Babies are born with a fully developed sense of smell; can tell the smell of their parents from other adults; prefer what mother ate during pregnancy.

Familiar smells, such as their parent's milk, are calming; give baby blanket that parent has slept with

Auditory – sounds and noise

Fully developed at birth; babies prefer the sound of human voices and are calmed by soft voice. Easily startled, sometimes cry with loud noise.


• Coo, talk, and smile, sing songs, play music, dance with infant, making eye contact

• Squeaky toys or toys that make noise

• Sing and hum to your baby

Interoception – internal feelings like hunger or tiredness

Babies will be calm but react to discomfort from hunger, fatigue, dirty diaper.


• Keep baby at a comfortable temperature

• Change diapers as soon as you can, feed with early feeding cues, pay attention to sleepy cues

• Attend to environmental input; e.g. bright lights should be dimmed for sleeping

3-6 months

Tactile – how things feel

Babies explore objects through touch and bring some to mouth.


• Provide opportunities to explore several different textures; use different toys, blankets,

fabrics

• See which tactile experiences are calming or soothing (soft blankets vs. rough burlap)

Vestibular - balance and movement

Babies are moving and balancing in various positions; beginning to sit by 6 months.

• Rhythmic movement - up and down, side to side; rocking and bouncing.

Proprioception - body awareness

Babies can use both sides of body together, learn push and pull.


Gentle push pull games with blankets, clapping, patty cake (bringing hands together and apart, try this with feet, too)

Visual

At 3 to 4 months, babies can focus on an object or face from 1-2 m away and begin to see a full range of colors.


• Hold baby face-to-face while you talk and make silly faces

• Carry baby so they can see out; point out and name objects

Olfactory - smell

Interested in smells of food, stronger reaction to bad odors.


• Timely diaper changes

• Pay attention to which smells baby likes or dislikes

• Avoid scented detergent, air freshener, perfumes

Auditory – sounds and noise

Babies alert to sounds and begin to imitate. Their various needs elicit different cries. They begin to babble.


• Imitate and engage in vocal play; listen to music

• Talk to baby– narrate your day. Point out objects while you talk

• Pay attention to noise needs for sleeping and play

• Baby may need quiet and less distraction while feeding

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