As babies and toddlers are not able to verbally communicate how they are feeling, it’s important to know what signs to look out for when your little one may be stressed.
But what exactly does does stress look like in a baby?
Some of the signs of stress in a baby or toddler can include a change in sleeping and eating habits, increased crying or fussiness and needing more reassurance.
But what causes stress in a baby or toddler in the first place?
And what can you do to relive stress in your child?
Let’s find out.
What Are The Signs Of A Stressed Baby?
Just because babies cannot tell you how they are feeling, they do have other ways of communicating which are important to recognize.
Some common signs of stress in a baby include:
- Reduced eye contact and looking away.
- Loud and excessive crying (more crying than usual).
- A change in their sleep habit, especially sleeping less than before.
- A change in their eating habit, which can be either overeating or a lack of appetite.
- Inexpressive, blanks looks on their face.
Signs Of A Stressed Toddler
- Crying or having more tantrums than usual.
- Having nightmares or other fears at bedtime.
- Vomiting, constipation or an increase in bowl movement.
- Trying to avoid certain people or situations.
- Being more clingy.
- Anger or sadness.
- Needing more reassurance from mom or dad on seemingly trivial things.
What Causes Stress In Babies?
Stress in babies or toddlers can be due to a wide range of factors.
Some of the most common causes of stress in babies and young children include:
Not being able to easily communicate what they want to do or say can be a big source of stress for babies.
Babies don’t have much control of the changing world around them or their own rapid development, and this can lead to your little one becoming understandably stressed out.
While this may seem obvious is may be overlooked.
One example of physical pain that babies and toddlers naturally experience is teething.
Not only is this a painful experience, it’s also something a child can neither understand nor control, so it’s no surprise that this can lead to both stress and frustration in your little one.
Babies and toddlers also experience literal “growing pains”, and any number of these pains can lead to temporary stress in your baby.
Negative Home Environment
Babies and toddlers notice consistent shouting , arguing and fighting by parents, siblings or other members of their household.
While hearing the odd argument won’t matter, if a baby experiences quite a lot of shouting or arguing they can become stressed themselves.
Separation anxiety is not necessarily a bad thing and many experts believe it’s a healthy response to being apart from loved ones and a natural part of the 5th development leap.
However, it can be a source of stress, especially if it’s a reaction to a change in something important (see below).
Change In Family Or Other Important Areas
Starting daycare or preschool, and major changes at home, such as a separation between parents, death, moving home or moving to a new city, can all cause stress in your little one due to the massive disruption and change in routine.
For babies (as well as adult) change can equate to stress, and this helps often explain why a child might suddenly become stressed when something major changes.
What Happens When A Baby Is Stressed?
Most of the stress that a baby experiences is a normal part of development and will not have an adverse affect on their long-term health.
However, if a child is exposed to high levels of stress for a long period (for example every day for a number of years), then it may lead to the child developing behavioral problems or stress-related diseases later in life.
How To Relieve Stress In Babies?
Babies and toddlers naturally find physical affection comforting as it provides a sense of safety and security.
When it comes to physical affection it’s important however to consider what your baby likes, because in some instances babies respond negatively to physical touch.
As a parent you will know what your baby’s preferences, so keep this in mind when offering physical affection as a remedy to stress.
Get In Your Baby’s Mind
Trying to think like your baby or toddler is a great way to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they are going through.
If you’re able to see situations through your baby’s eyes you may realise that what seems normal to us can easily be viewed as scary, overwhelming and completely new or unexpected to a baby.
Adopting this mindset may lead you to change the way you do certain things, so that your baby has a greater control or choice.
For example if you’re planning to take your baby away from their favorite squishy toy, change their diaper and go out shopping, you may tell or explain to your child what is about to happen, so they better understand the situation they are experiencing.
Watch Your Emotions
Despite what we may think or want to believe, when we are angry, sad or depressed, to some extent our baby is able to sense, read and mirror these emotions.
So things like managing your own stress, or not having an argument with your spouse in front your child can really help relieve your baby’s stress levels.
Practice Baby Wearing
If you have a newborn or young baby, then carrying your baby in a carrier can be an excellent way to reduce their stress.
The gently movement and close proximity to mom or dad is a wonderful way to soothe, calm and bond with your child, and all of these things will help lower a baby’s overall stress levels.