YOUR BABY – BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
YOUR BABY – BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
One of the first experiences you have with your new baby is the bonding that takes place between the parent and their infant. The bonding process is very important in healthy infant development. Nature facilitates this process by making it an enjoyable experience for both you and your infant. Bonding which includes hugging, snugging, making eye contact and providing a sense of continuity and security not only benefits the infant, but you as a parent as well.
Watching and facilitating the growth of your infant in their first year is very rewarding when you consider how much you affect the infant’s growth and development. An infant’s brain is developing at an amazing rate. The interaction and human contact you have with the infant during the first years of life has a great impact on their life.
By the time your child is three, the brain has formed 1,000 trillion connections, about twice as many as adults have. Some brain cells, called neurons, have already been hard-wired to other cells before birth. They control functions like the heartbeat and breathing that are essential to life. The rest of the brain connections are waiting to be “hooked up”.
The connections neurons make with each other are called synapses. While various parts of the brain develop at different rates, study after study has shown that the peak production period for synapses is from birth to about the age of ten. Scientists believe the stimulation that babies and young children receive determines which synapses form in the brain.
How does the brain know which connections to keep? Through repetition, brain connections become permanent. Conversely, a connection that is not used at all or often enough is unlikely to survive.
For example: A child who is rarely spoken to in the early years may have difficulty mastering language skills later on. A child who is rarely played with may have difficulty with social adjustment in late life.
An infant’s brain thrives on feedback from its environment. It wires itself into a thinking emotional organ from the things it experiences. The circuits that form in the brain influence the development of a child. Therefore, a child immersed in language from birth is likely to learn to speak very well. A baby, whose coos are met with smiles, rather than apathy, is likely to become emotionally responsive. Babies and toddlers flourish in an environment that is interesting to explore, that is safe and that is filled with people who respond to their emotional and intellectual requirements, people who will sing to them, hug them, talk to them and read to them. All these brain connections are not meant to push early learning but rather to develop the potential for future learning. When brain development happens, future learning is likely to be successful. A newborn is a remarkable organism from the moment he or she begins to breathe. A newborn can see, hear, and smell, and he or she is sensitive to pain, touch, and change in position. The only sense that may not function immediately after birth is taste, but even that sense develops quickly. The infant is biologically ready to experience most of the basic sensations from the time of birth.
Infant care involves a lot more than changing diapers and placing your baby down for a nap. A conscientious parent will appreciate the wonderful opportunity that comes with caring for an infant. It would appear that learning experiences which are provided during the first year of life may in fact have the greatest impact on future personality development.
HOW AN INFANT LEARNS
• Research shows that the more an infant is cuddled, snuggled and held, the more secure and independent she will be when she is older.
• Babies respond to the high-pitched sounds that adults make when talking to them.
• Newborns possess a natural response to music through their conditioning in the womb to rhythm, sound and movement.
• A child’s capacity to control emotions hinges on early experiences and attachments.
• Neurons for vision begin forming during the first few months of life. Activities that stimulate a baby’s sight will ensure good visual development.
• An infant’s brain thrives on feedback from its environment and “wires” itself into a thinking based on early experiences.
• By two months babies can distinguish features on a face.
• Just reaching for an object helps the brain to develop hand-eye coordination.
• What babies see and smell causes brain connections to be made, especially if the experiences happen in a loving, consistent, predictable manner.
• Strengthening a baby’s thigh muscles are important for future crawling and walking.
• At birth a baby can see best between 8 and 12 inches away.
• When babies are in the womb, they are able to distinguish the sound of human voices.
• Scientists are just now realizing how experiences after birth determine the actual ‘wiring’ of the human brain.
• Exercising visual skills is essential during the first six months of life.
• Gently touching a baby will make him feel secure and safe, enabling him to become confident and, eventually, independent.