Is Your Baby A Sparkler?

Some babies sleep long and peacefully, wake up happy, entertain themselves, stay in a crib or stroller without complaint, sit happily in a lap, and demand very little attention. But not yours…

Maybe it’s tummy trouble. Maybe it’s personality. Maybe your baby is having trouble adjusting to the world out here. Maybe it’s all three. But your baby isn’t happy unless someone is doing something with him, all day long. He can work himself into a state in no time flat, and when he does it’s impossible to ignore him. That’s the down side of a sparkler – one of those babies who constantly gives off sparks, changing moods, creating stress in the household. The up side is that any baby who demands attention tends to get it… and it’s attention that builds brain cells. Your little sparkler may require a whole lot of energy right now, but he’s going to be extra bright and extra wonderful as he grows up. So how do you live with a sparkler right now?

Breastfeeding. Your child may need to nurse much more often than other babies and wean much later. The polite hostess offers often, knowing that some guests just need to snack more. Perhaps your baby will end up at the highest end of the growth curve, perhaps not. Know that she can manage the extra milk safely by spitting up or by wearing off those extra creases as a toddler. But if she seems to have a too-rumbly tummy or seems to fight the breast at times or creates a too-large milk supply, there are simple ways to help her nurse frequently without upsetting her intestines. As a starting point, use one breast until your baby has softened it well, even if that means using it several times in a row. If anyone tells you to stop breastfeeding, seek help from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant ( or La Leche League Leader (; stopping even temporarily is virtually never a helpful step. Remember that humans don’t normally wean until between 2 ½ and 7 years, and be grateful that you have such a simple, healthy mothering tool available to you.

Stimulation.Whether your sparkler’s problem is his tummy or his itchy clothing or his personality, he’s happiest when he’s distracted. From the start, he’ll probably enjoy frequent changes of scenery. He’ll probably like being rocked from side to side more than rocking front to back. He’ll probably like a little bounce in your “baby dance” more than a smooth swaying. If you’re trying to keep him calm in the car seat before you put it in the car, swinging it sideways and letting it bump against your leg with each swing will almost certainly work better than jiggling it on its rocker bottom.

Holding.From the start, she’ll probably like the “magic baby hold.” Let her whole front lie along your left forearm, her head near your elbow and one of her arms on either side of yours. Hold her right thigh with your left hand. You can let her face the floor or face slightly outward. When she’s older, you can even prop your knuckles on your hip this way. If you sense her tensing, just turn so that she’s looking at something new. And don’t forget to put a little bounce in your movements. A sling is wonderful for a sparkler, especially once he can face out, his back against your chest. Sparklers love to see the world, and may not like a carrier that leaves them facing Mom. Older sparklers may enjoy backpacks.

Nights.No baby wants to sleep alone. It has always been basic survival for an infant to sleep in contact with an adult, and the adult’s steady breathing and frequent moving may help reduce the risk of SIDS in the early months. You might want to sleep with a nightlight on at first, so you can tend to your wee one without turning any real lights on. If your growing child continues to need to sleep with you, remember that sharing sleep with children is the human norm, even if it isn’t our culture’s norm.

Travel.Some sparklers enjoy car rides, many do not. If your baby hates the car, and if someone else is driving, you may be able to provide some calming by sitting next to him, leaning over, and nursing him without unbuckling either one of you. If the carseat fastens to a base, try sitting on a raised cushion, to bring yourself to his level. Plan some extra stops on your trip, and know that this phase will pass.

Clothing.Some sparklers have genuine trouble with certain textures. As your sparkler gets older, let her feel clothing before buying it for her. It may all feel the same to you, but some sparklers know instantly whether something is going to feel irritating against their skin or not. Believe them when they say they can’t stand the lumps in their socks. They’re not making it up to annoy you.

Reading.Do some investigating. You’ll find there are various reasons for sparklers. Reflux is over-diagnosed but can be a real and really stressful problem for a baby. Oversupply and overactive let-down are more common issues. Some sparklers are sensitive to certain foods, with dairy heading the list and soy probably running second. “Sensory integration” problems can cause a child to be truly distressed by loud sounds, or sudden changes in position (like elevators), or certain textures. We can help them with some of these problems, and they will learn how to avoid situations that bother them, but it takes them some time and they deserve our understanding during the process. Talk to people who can help you investigate allergies and other sensitivities and special needs.

Who “gives in” to whom? It can be very tempting, when relatives and friends say you’re spoiling your baby, to try to “break” him, by letting him cry it out, by putting him on a schedule, by making him fit the mold that the other kids seem to fall into so easily. But this is not a power struggle. No child is unhappy on purpose, and small children are far too self-absorbed to be manipulative. At a recent conference session on children with sensory integration issues, many mothers of sparklers – women who have since made a career of working with breastfeeding families – found themselves near tears as they realized the speaker was describing their own years-ago child to them. They realized that following their hearts, even though at the time they didn’t know where that would lead or why, had been – for research-based, biological, and neurological reasons – exactly the right thing to do.

©2008 Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC

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