Sensory Overload in Parenting: When the lights, sounds & touching are just too much

Parenting. Nurturing.  Loving.  Helping.  Sustaining.  Giving LIFE to your child.  Being their EVERYTHING.  It truly is beautiful, isn’t it?

But have you ever felt…smothered? Touched-out? Like it was all just TOO MUCH at the moment? Like you would do anything for just a moment of peace?

These feelings are NORMAL and do not make you a bad parent. These feelings just may mean you’re experiencing sensory overload at the moment.  

What is Sensory Overload?

Simply put, sensory overload occurs when you’re getting more input from your five senses (taste, sight, smell, touch, sound) than your brain can handle.

Now I’m not a doctor, nor do I have a sensory processing disorder, but I personally believe sensory overload can hit parents HARD, especially in those early years.  Working parents can 100% still experience these things, but I believe it is more prevalent in stay-at-home parents because the input is simply non-stop. 

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?

  1. You have a baby/toddler touching you ALL DAY. This may be a newborn who still needs to nurse around the clock, a baby/toddler who will only nap on you, or a bigger kid who always seems to be touching you (including all through the night). When you have a human attached to you pretty much 24/7- it can make you extremely touched-out and crave even just a few moments when your body is your own and not at the constant disposal of another little human.  
  2. The noise.  Oh the noise.  Whether it’s a crying baby, singing toys, a loud TV, screaming/screeching children, dogs barking, loud music, ALL THE QUESTIONS…sometimes your brain and body just craves peace and quiet.
  3. The smells.  Diapers, boys who can’t aim in the bathroom, scented candles, the lost sippy-cup of milk in the couch, onions & garlic from dinner last night.  It can be a lot. 
  4. Light. Does every single possible light seem to be on in your house too? And don’t forget all the light-up blinky toys!  I’ve realized personally that bright light in the evening is too much- it actually feels too loud, as strange as that seems.  

I know personally I can handle all these things decently throughout the day…but by night time, I’m FEELING THEM.  The lights seem to be brighter, the noise louder,  the mess greater, etc.

Tips to minimize the overload

Feeling touched-out and craving a moment of PEACE AND QUIET does not make you a bad parent-it makes you a normal human being. Try these things to help minimize the overload:

  1. After dinner, dim the lights in the house and turn off electronics.  Not only is this easier on the eyes and ears, it also helps stimulate Melatonin production for the night.
  2. Teach your child independent sleep skills. Guys, this is HUGE and makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Once your baby is over the age of 4 months, they can learn the skills necessary to fall asleep on their own.  What does this mean for you? It means every single nap doesn’t need to be on you (unless you want it to). It means that bedtime doesn’t have to be a 2 hour battle (which only increases the sensory overload) that ends with you laying next to your kiddo in bed.  It means you have your evenings and nights FREE to be YOU. It allows you to face all the challenges (and noise) of the next day head on because you’re able to recharge your batteries at night. If you need help getting your child sleeping better on their own, that’s what I do!

A note to parents of newborns

This is SUCH hard season and one you don’t always have a lot of control in. Your baby needs to eat around the clock, may have colic, and may just want to be in your arms all day.  While this is beautiful in so many ways, it can be HARD. My biggest piece of advice is to accept help.  People LOVE to help so say YES if someone asks.  Those few minutes alone to shower, eat a meal, etc. can do wonders for your sanity.  If you need to put in earplugs while you soothe your colicky baby- that’s ok! Be vocal about what YOU need as a parent to get through this tough season so you can happily give all you need to your new baby.  Be sure to download my free newborn sleep guide which can help you through this phase. 


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