We think about a lot of things when we bring a new baby home. How much they poop, how frequently they should be fed, whether they’re sleeping well. But we don’t always consider their body language, the signals babies give us to tell us they’re tired, overstimulated, or hungry. A new book, The Babysense Secret , helps parents more easily identify how baby is feeling and how best to respond to and understand his sensory world.
Written by occuptional therapist Megan Faure, the book has lots of helpful information and tips for new and established parents. We spoke with Faure via email about her book.
Memphis Parent: You talk about baby’s sensory world but that’s not something many of us focus on. Why?
Author Megan Faure: The manner in which we respond to the world is often just put down to our upbringing or nature, but the reality is that the sensory world around us affects our behavior to a great degree. The way our brain processes sensory information is largely ignored because it happens so naturally without us even thinking about it. The concept that our baby’s sensory world affects sleep, crying, and development has been very well researched and is understood by occupational therapists and psychologists but is often not recognized by parents. All development and behavior in babies is impacted by the way the baby’s brain processes his sensory world.
Parent: Give an example of how stimulation can affect baby’s behavior.
Faure: For example, a toddler who throws a tantrum at the end of a party may be seen as simply naughty or tired, but if you stop to think about it, at a party, a toddler has to take in an enormous amount of visual, sound, and touch sensory input. So by the time he has socialized in this manner for two hours, his little sensory system (within his brain) has had enough and a simple challenge like putting his shoes on to go home may result in a meltdown.
Likewise colic, which is often attributed to digestive issues, is now understood in the context of the immaturity of the newborn’s brain and the way in which a little one can cope with sensory stimulation. Being awake and interacting for too long in our busy sensory world, such as being passed around, looking at a mobile, or simply coping with the sensory challenge of a dirty diaper, can push a young baby into sensory overload, resulting in colic.
Parent: How did you arrive at the importance of sensory issues in infants?
Faure: I’m an occupational therapist with a special interest in babies and their brains. As I was treating fussy babies and learning about the way their brains are affected by sensory information, I realized that sensory
integration could hold the key to calming babies and helping all children sleep better. I then had my own children and realized how the understanding of overstimulation really could prevent colic and help them sleep well. Knowing how many parents look for answers on development, sleep and fussing, I realized it was time to write a book that revealed the underlying reasons behind baby’s behavior.
Parent: How can parents learn to tune in to their own child’s disposition?
Faure: There are three things parents can do:
- Recognize which of the four sensory personalities describes your baby.
- Take time to read your baby’s signals — your baby will indicate how she copes with stimulation using subtle baby signals.
- Slow down and spend time with your baby. In our busy world, it’s tempting to try and ‘have the baby fit into your lifestyle’ but the reality is babies and moms do best if they have time to get to know each other’s signals in the first weeks of life.