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Premature Infant: Signs of Overstimulation - Topic Overview

Premature infants are born before the nervous system is mature enough to handle outside stimuli without becoming overstimulated. Your baby will need to sleep most of the time and will not interact a lot with you at first. But your presence is important to your baby. When you are with your baby, keep your voice low and keep outside noise and light to a minimum.

If your premature infant is overstimulated, you may notice physical reactions in the presence of too much sound, touch, movement, or light, including:

  • A drop in blood oxygen levels (oxygen desaturation).
  • A drop in heart rate (bradycardia).
  • A rapid heart rate (tachycardia).
  • Looking away from you when you speak or make eye contact, a more subtle sign of overstimulation.
  • Twisting, arching, or scowling.

If you see such signs, give your infant some peace and quiet. The next time you're together, try only one stimulus at a time (such as touch or voice, but not both).

Look for signs that your baby is relaxed and ready to interact with you, such as:

  • Eyes open and engaged.
  • Relaxed face, mouth, fingers, and toes.
  • Normal color.
  • Regular breathing.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 22, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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