Is Sensory Overload for Newborns Dangerous?

Sensory stimulation has to do with how a newborn responds to the sights, sounds, touches and smells around him. Infants who are more sensitive to these types of stimulation can "overload" when they get too much sensory stimuli and can’t process it 1. Although many infants have problems with sensory processing at first, most cope better as they develop and grow. Sensory overload becomes an increasing concern when it interferes with the quality of a child’s daily life past infancy 12.


Providing a baby too much stimulation at once can overwhelm her nervous system, causing sensory overload 1. Some infants have trouble processing high levels of certain kinds of stimuli and, as a result, they react negatively. For example, babies who have a low tolerance for sensory stimuli may cry whenever they are in a large, noisy crowd. According to a 2012 article published by “NY Metro Parents Magazine,” for a child who has trouble self-regulating, the key is to provide soothing and relaxing sensory input. Pay attention to your baby’s responses to new sensory experiences. If he gets upset, he may be getting too much sensory information too quickly, so he can’t process it all.

Recognizing the Signs

Some infants have difficulty processing the information their brains receive from their senses. If your baby is irritable, inconsolable and crying constantly, she may be hypersensitive to the sensory stimuli around her. Infants who are hypersensitive to certain kinds of stimulation may also resist being cuddled or held by tensing their bodies or arching their backs. While some hypersensitive babies actually sleep more, not all infants are able to fall asleep as an escape to block out sensory overload, according to parenting website Ask Dr. Sears 1.


Recognizing the signs that your baby is being overstimulated can help you avoid situations that bring on sensory overload 12. Once you know what upsets your infant, you can better control his exposure. For instance, if your baby gets worked up when he's held by several different people in a short period of time, explain to his admirers that he needs a break. If he fusses and cries in noisy settings, skip going to a ballgame or other noisy activity and consider a quiet walk through the park.


Although infants have most of the brain cells they need for learning when they are born, the cells still need to form connections. But when an infant has to cope with overstimulation, her body has less energy to make new brain connections that help her learn. Generally, babies outgrow hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli as their nervous systems develop. However, some children continue to have problems regulating their sensory processing. In particular, children who are later diagnosed with ADHD or autism spectrum disorder often have trouble processing sensory stimuli and regulating how they respond to their environments, according to a May 2007 article in "British Columbia Medical Journal."