Your baby will be able to screen out sounds and over stimulating situations by shutting down. This is called habituating. When a baby is habituating – they appear to be sleeping. This protective state however consumes a lot of energy and does not replenish it as effectively as true sleep does. He may look like he is trying to sleep but in fact he is spending a great amount of energy tuning out stimulation so that he can remain asleep. An example of this is a baby that sleeps through a dinner during rush time where the restaurant is busy and crowded or the baby that seems to be passed around easily and sleeps through the handling of many relatives while at a family function. Infants who are sleeping through these types of situations are actually habituating and not truly resting.
Habituating vs. Sleeping
When newborns spend their time “shutting down” – they expend a lot of needed energy and typically wake up and become fussy and inconsolable rather than refreshed and alert. Habituation can be very draining on new babies.
Try to be observant of when your baby is habituating and know the difference of when they are shutting down vs. sleeping and waking truly rested. Some babies have a low tolerance for stimulation and are overly sensitive to environmental disruptions. These babies may have difficulty coping in loud, intrusive or overwhelming situations.
Recognizing When Your Baby is Habituating
It does not take a lot to overwhelm a new baby so pay close attention to what your baby’s tolerance level is. Try to protect their sleep by offering your infant a comfortable and quiet place to sleep. Experiment with darker, quiet areas to see if that helps protect their sleep cycles and results in better more prolonged stretches of sleep. Your baby may do better if swaddled and moved to a quiet and dimly lit or dark space in order to maintain deep sleep.