The thought of a hyperactive baby brings up imagery of a little devil getting into trouble, making a lot of noise and never slowing down. While there may be some truth to that, there are also some misconceptions about hyperactivity in babies. The good news is, it can be simple to treat and result in a healthier family.
Hyperactivity is called a “disability” by some doctors, but others insist it’s really just a description of the way a child acts rather than a judgment of how he “should” act, especially when he’s just a baby. In varying degrees, hyperactivity affects thousands of children and adults. Behavior, communication and learning disorders can be a result. On the other hand, “hyper” can be a subjective term, and often a baby will be labeled hyperactive just because he’s more creative, energetic and enthusiastic than another child in the same room. In those cases, treatment may not be required, although it won’t hurt to see what happens, since there are absolutely no side effects.
There are degrees of hyperactivity, and not all babies shows all of the signs. But your baby might be called hyperactive if he has “colic” (a tough diagnosis in itself); is difficult to feed; cries and screams a lot without being soothed by affection or nursing; or if he rocks, bangs his head and throws a lot of tantrums. He also might drool often, be very thirsty and sleep very little. Some hyperactive babies only sleep three or four hours a day, which is only about one-sixth of what the average baby sleeps.
Some parents know their baby is hyperactive during his first few weeks of life, and sometimes it’s even possible to tell before he’s born. If the pregnant mother experiences a lot of kicking, as if the baby is trying to make more room, it could be a sign. Many hyperactive babies hate being held, cuddled or swaddled. These thing calm most babies because being hugged or wrapped tightly in a blanket reminds him of being back in the womb. If your baby stiffens his arms and legs or arches backwards into your lap when you try to hold him or nurse him, it could mean hyperactivity, although many babies arch their backs when they’re sleepy.
If your child is a boy, you’ve got a 3-to-1 chance of having a hyperactive baby over a parent of a girl.
Studies have shown that hyperactivity is often caused, or at least aggravated, by chemical additives in food. Infants can usually only get access to these additives if nursing from a mother who has consumed them. The biggest offenders are preservatives, added colorings and flavorings.
If you don’t treat your hyperactive baby when he’s young, he could become destructive when he becomes mobile, which often happens at an early age with these babies. He’ll get into everything, rush around, be clumsy and have a short attention span. This can result in your child having difficulty making friends because he wreaks havoc at daycare, preschool or other people’s houses, and is often aggressive. It can also turn into a learning disability, either with visual perception or with integrating and understanding what he sees and hears. Physical problems can include continued difficulty with sleep, allergies, asthma, poor appetite, headaches and stomach aches.
If you suspect your child’s hyperactivity may be food-related, stick to natural foods without preservatives, for both the child and the nursing mother. It’s easy to prepare homemade baby food by pureeing ripe fruit and well-cooked vegetables with a little water, and single portions can be frozen in ice cube trays and then stored in zippered freezer bags for several months. Only introduce new foods to your baby every four to seven days, starting between 4 and 6 months of age, so you can check for any unusual reactions that may indicate an allergy to that food. This approach will not only treat hyperactivity, but will make your whole family healthier, as you stock your home with foods that are free of additives and preservatives.