Is Your Child a Sparkler?


Some babies sleep soundly, 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…







Is Your Child a Sparkler?

Some babies sleep soundly, 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 he’s 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 sparklers – those babies who constantly give off sparks, changing moods in a flash, stressing everyone around them.  The up side is that the baby who demands attention tends to get it… and attention builds brain cells.  Your little sparkler may take 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.  The polite hostess offers often, because some guests nibble more than others.  If your baby 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 nurse as often as she likes without upsetting her intestines.  As a starting point, let her stay on one side as long as she likes, to soften it well and slow the flow.  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 almost never helpful.  Remember that humans don’t normally wean until between 2 ½ and 7 years, and be glad 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 lots of carrying, and be happier out and about than at home.  He’ll probably like being rocked from side to side more than rocking front to back.  He’ll probably prefer a little bounce in your “baby dance” rather 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.  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 soft carrier is wonderful for a sparkler.  Wear her upright, not curled, with her face free to look around and see the world.  Older sparklers often enjoy being in a backpack, with bouncing and an eye-level view that a stroller can’t provide.

Nights.  No baby wants to sleep alone.  It has always been basic survival for an infant to sleep in contact with an adult, whose steading breathing and frequent small movements offer gentle stimulation through the night.  Whether or not you share your bed, by all means share your room.  If your growing child continues to need to sleep with you, remember that sharing sleep with young children is the human norm, and has been since the beginning of time.

Travel.  Some sparklers enjoy car rides, many do not.  If your baby hates the car, plan for extra stops on your trip, and know that this phase will pass.

Clothing.  Some sparklers are bothered by certain textures.  As your sparkler gets older, let her feel clothing before buying it for her.  Some sparklers know instantly whether something is going to feel irritating against their skin.  Believe them when they say they can’t stand the lumps in their socks.  They’re telling you because it’s really important to them.

Reading.  Do some investigating.  Oversupply and overactive let-down are likely possibilities.  Reflux is over-diagnosed but it’s a real problem for some babies.  A few sparklers have food sensitivities, probably with dairy heading the list.  “Sensory integration” problems can cause a child to be truly distressed by certain sounds or textures.  They may have trouble changing smoothly from one activity to another. We can help them with some of these problems, and as they grow they’ll learn their own coping mechanisms, but it takes time and they deserve our understanding during the process.  Talk to people who can help you investigate.

Who “gives in” to whom?  Someone may tell you you’re spoiling your baby or letting him manipulate you, and you need to show him who’s boss.  It may be tempting to try to “break” him, by letting him cry it out or by putting him on a schedule or 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 breastfeeding conference session on children with sensory integration issues, many mothers of sparklers – women who later made a career of working with breastfeeding families – found themselves near tears as they realized the speaker was describing their own years-ago child.  They realized that following their hearts, even though at the time they didn’t know where that would lead them or why, had been – for research-based, biological, and neurological reasons – exactly the right thing to do.

©2017 Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC

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