Edited By Dr. Hari Muraleedharan Ph.D
Kate is so relieved to be in labor. She has been very uncomfortable in the last trimester and is looking forward to meeting her baby. Deep inside her, tiny Jess is experiencing the labor quite differently. Jess has been very comfortable in her perfect womb world. In fact, she found the last trimester particularly soothing as the tight uterine walls contained her movements and provided a deep calming hug. Jess will soon enter a place that is as foreign as it is overwhelming. Over the next twelve months, Jess will discover how to make sense of her new environment. Likewise, her mom, Kate, has twelve months ahead of her in which she will learn how to read her little one, soothe her, and help her to make sense of our busy world.
Learn how to ...
ü Your own personal sensory experience.
ü Understand how and why your baby behaves in response to sensory information.
ü Recognize why Understand how your baby’s senses develop.
ü Discover babies are so different.
ü Identify your baby’s unique sensory personality.
The secrets of the senses
We live in a sensory-rich world and spend each waking moment taking in information from the world through our senses. The intricate nervous system and brain process this sensory information, and we respond emotionally and act on it. As we encounter various situations, we develop the ability to select which sensory information to attend to and how to respond. Your young baby’s brain, however, has yet to develop such skills. For the first few months of life she is unable to control what sensory input she takes in, or how she responds to that information. why the senses are important There is always a good reason for crying or resisting sleep. Understanding your baby’s immature nervous system will help you to appreciate this and perceive the world as she experiences it. Calming a newborn is all about understanding the effect of your baby’s environment on her behavior.
The key to keeping her content is recognizing the signals she uses to indicate when, why, and how you should nurture, stimulate, and calm her. Then, instead of following rules and strict routines or feeling your way in the dark, you will discover the reasons behind her behavior. Even better, you will learn the secret of providing appropriate stimulation and thereby make the most of your baby’s inborn potential.
The nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. The
brain’s role is to take in information (input), decide what is important and relevant, then interpret the information so that we can perform an appropriate action in response. This input is delivered to the brain through the senses. Our sensory experience is not limited to input from the external world via the five senses of touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste. There are also three “body senses” that give the brain information about our internal world: movement (vestibular sense), body position (proprioception), and information from our organs (interoception). In order to understand your baby’s behavior, it is useful to see how these senses help us build a picture of the world.
five external senses.
bath that is too hot. You use touch to care for and comfort your baby, building an emotional bond.
Chemical receptors in the mucus membranes of the nose perceive smells. Unlike the other senses, which pass through a relay station in the brain, sensations from the nose go directly to its emotion center. This explains the strong emotional response we have to scents and odors and the strong memories evoked by familiar smells. We can return to childhood emotions in a flash when we encounter a smell such as the perfume our mother wore as she kissed us goodnight.
The eyes perceive form, light, and color. At birth the sense of sight is the least developed, but newborns do take an interest in bright lights and contrasting colors. Within a week or so the eyes begin to orient to and track interesting objects, such as mom’s face.
This is carried by airwaves and picked up and registered by receptors in the inner ear. Babies quickly learn to identify the direction of a sound, and then attach meaning to different sounds.
Perceived by receptors on the tongue, the sense of taste is closely linked to smell. The chemical receptors on different parts of the tongue are sensitive to salty, sour, bitter, and sweet tastes. Babies prefer sweet tastes, to prime them to seek out the sweet taste of breast milk three internal senses.
v Movement (vestibular)
Receptors in the inner ear sense changes of body position, most specifically, movement of the head. When this sense functions well, we know in which direction we are moving, how fast and whether we are speeding up or slowing down. If it does not function well, we may feel nauseated or threatened by normal movement.
v Body position (proprioception)
Muscles and joints give us information about the position of our body in space and how our limbs are moving. Movement against resistance, exercise, and deep-pressure touch are linked to proprioception. Many people make use of this sense to manage stress or when feeling disorganized by taking a long jog or a yoga class or enjoying a deep hug. The information sent from our muscles and joints during these activities can have a soothing effect.
Our internal organs give information about how comfortable the body is and its survival needs. Messages are sent from the digestive, temperature regulation, and elimination systems. These internal messages result in action and a feeling of well-being or general discomfort, which we might experience as indigestion or the urge to urinate. Your newborn finds it difficult to interpret this, making her a little unsettled.
The ability to filter sensory information is linked to our individual sensory capabilities—whether we ourselves are social butterflies or slow-to-warm-up—but it is not static. For instance, there are times in life when you behave like a sensitive mom, even though you are usually a settled type. Likewise, your settled baby may have periods in the day when she is more sensitive.
Three main factors affect your baby’s abilityto filter sensory information:
1. Time of day Ask any seasoned mother and she will have a name for the early evening: “witching hour,” “horror hour,” and so on. At this time, you and your baby will have lower tolerance for sensory information and stressful situations, while your toddler may become fractious, argumentative, and a lot busier. Your newborn may experience colic at this time, and you have lower levels of breast milk and a lower tolerance for your little one’s antics.
2. Stress any new situation increases our stress levels. If we can meet the requirements of the situation, for example, bringing your new baby home, we cope. But if for any reason, we experience the situation as threatening, we become stressed. In this state adults are more sensitive to stimuli than when they are relaxed. The stress of a new baby may cause you to become hypersensitive to sounds, touch, and smells. This sensory overload can result in tension in the home as you become over-sensitized to your baby’s cry or toddler’s voice, or to
your partner’s demands or offers of help.
3. Age this is one of the biggest factors affecting your baby’s ability to filter sensory input. In the first three months, she does not have the ability to fully filter sensory input and so is particularly susceptible to overstimulation.
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