Much research has shown that many parents (48%) believe that stress or stressful situations do not affect their baby before they turn one. This is actually not the case. Babies can often interpret and feel stress as early as one month old according to many studies.
What are some signs that a baby might be stressed?
• Increased crying
• Changes in sleep habits (some of this is typical as they develop)
• Decreased or no eye contact
• Changes in eating habits (overeating/undereating/gastrointestinal issues)
• Looks without emotion or expression
Babies interpret their world and stressors, dangers or happiness from their caregiver by observing their facial expression, tone of voice and emotional reaction to any situation. A CALM caregiver is the ‘buffer’ between the stress hormone cortisol being released in their body. Now, every baby has a different temperament and sometimes just a nurturing voice or touch could be enough to calm their stress.
The following tips may also help you to reduce your baby’s stress:
• Give them attention while feeding, whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding
• Offer gentle touches
• Do not expose the baby to your stress, as it can affect them
• Be playful with them; play games that are appropriate for their age
• Babywearing, a parenting style where your baby is kept close to you with the help of a sling or pouch, can reduce stress.
• Try not to disturb them when they’re sleeping
• Always respond to their cries; never leave them unattended
• Give gentle massages (if they tolerate it)
** Always make sure there is no medical cause to your baby’s distress- attend yearly physicals and call your pediatrician if you have questions.
Written by Leslie Stevens, LCMFT – Mental Health Specialist