Expert describes how a normal action of yawning can indicate a baby feeling overstimulated by their surroundings.
Parents must keep a close eye on their children as they grow up. In the formative ears, the children are unable to express themselves verbally and hence use their actions to communicate. That's why parents should focus on every movement and behavioral pattern displayed by children to identify any issue. Dan Wuori–who goes on X (previously Twitter) by @DanWuori–is bringing attention to one such behavioral pattern, yawning. Even though it is a perfectly normal thing that humans do, Wuori believes that if it happens repeatedly, especially when it is not supposed to occur, it indicates a bigger problem in play. In his post, he goes into detail about the telltale signs parents should look at to understand if their baby is exhausted.
Dan Wuori is a Senior Director of Early Learning at The Hunt Institute. He regularly posts content about child development and early childhood policy. This post begins with him talking about how yawning, a normal human action, can imply distress for babies. Yawning typically happens when a person is tired and their body needs rest. If babies yawn when they should be awake and have not spent much energy, Wuori believes it could be a sign that "they are feeling overstimulated." It is not healthy for children, especially toddlers.
Is your baby a yawner? 🥱— Dan Wuori (@DanWuori) October 18, 2023
As with adults, yawning is perfectly normal and generally a sign that your baby is becoming drowsy… but not always.
If you find your baby yawning during periods of full wakefulness, this may also be a sign that they are feeling overstimulated.
In an interview with The Guardian, Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT, warned of the "cognitive cost" of putting the brain through "multitasking." However, in children, this impact multiplies as their nervous system is still going through development. In order to show when yawning should be looked into, Wuori attached a TikTok video by Marisa Lynn Clark (@marisalynnclark). In this video, the baby is yawning in broad daylight when, in all probability, they have slept through the night.
Wuori explains how early years are the most active ones for the brain. Not only is the organ developing, but it is also absorbing "new sights, sounds, environments." This process of taking in so many new elements makes the brain hyperactive in its functionality and hence needs some quiet time. During this time, they explore the world at their own pace, without any limitation. The absence of "quiet time" makes the brain overstimulated.
As per Wuori, babies express overstimulation by "yawning, hiccuping, waving or kicking arms and legs in an agitated fashion, and, of course, crying." He asks parents to observe these signs in their babies and if they notice it, take effective steps. The step he suggests is changing the baby's environment. In his opinion, the best way to calm the brain down is by putting the babies in a comfortable and familiar environment where they don't have to figure out a lot. The place should be "less bright, less noisy and sometimes, less populated." He believes it would work wonders for the babies and their mental health.
This happens in older children too. When my 4yr old started swimming lessons and was quite nervous, she would yawn constantly while waiting for her turn. I’ve noticed other kids doing it too.— Joelle Calnan (@CalnanJoelle) October 18, 2023
I love this! As a somatic practitioner, I see adults yawn, laugh, burp and so many other things as a form of release. They’ve just finished holding particular bodily sensations and when complete, their bodies release as a completion of the stress cycle. Thank you for this!— Erna (@ernasheree) October 18, 2023
The comment section agreed with Wuori's points. @SusanGroff1 believes this advice goes for all ages and commented, "'Alternate periods of intense stimulation with opportunities for quieter forms of play.' Good advice for all ages." @ABKinSTL shares that they will use the suggestions with their grandkid and wrote, "I did not know that things like hiccups and yawning were signs of overstimulation. I'll keep that in mind as I play with my 3mo grandboy!"