For new parents the expression ‘baby brain’ may bring up memories of arriving harassed and late at a party wearing odd shoes, having left the gift (and the wine!) at home on the kitchen table, a la Bridgett Jones. Yet now is the time of great opportunity for you to invest in nurturing the healthy development of your baby’s brain and their lifelong wellbeing. Focusing your attention on your baby’s needs and learning to read their cues is the most important gift you can give.
Did you know that during the first 3 years of life you form over 1 million neural connections each second? These connections help you to understand your body, your world and to create meaning from your experience. It is a time of great opportunity and vulnerability since you are reliant on your caregivers, usually parents, to help you regulate all of the sensory stimulation you receive, be that hunger, tiredness, discomfort or loneliness.
Babies learn to communicate early at first through the sounds of their cry and then soon after babbling. Crying lets you know something needs attending to hunger, discomfort, tiredness or loneliness. Whilst crying can be distressing, rest assure babies reach peak crying at around 46 weeks after conception so it won’t last forever and hopefully you’ll soon get to know each other and be able to help your baby settle. Babbling, on the other hand, is a cue to let parents know they are ready to play and learn. When parents let babies lead in the conversation, responding to baby’s vocalisation baby’s start to learn that they have a voice and can communicate in a way that others listen to them. Being heard and understood is the sweet spot most of us adults are striving for every day! Parents can really help their baby to get this by pausing more, watching their babies face and truly take time to notice the child’s response. Slowing down in a cyber speed world can be tricky, yet baby brain speed is slower, they are still forming the neural pathways to make sense of their experience, they are still learning how to think, and process so give them time to get the hang of it! Yes, your baby might be the next baby Einstein, but not yet, for now, they need your time and attention to help them figure it out. You will be rewarded for your patience with more babbles and gurgles and at the same time grow in your own intuitive competence. As a parent, we can do ourselves and our baby big favour by spending less time in our head thinking what is right and spend more time watching, marvelling and responding from that presence of mind that being still and calm leads you to.
Did you know that babies who receive regular touch have stronger neural connections and greater overall wellbeing? Babies divide the world into things that respond to them and things that don’t. A bit like a Facebook algorithm. We are social beings and you create that social experience for your baby by touching and holding them. Playing with them when they are ready to play and then helping them to settle when they become overstimulated and unsettled. Do you upset or downhearted when your baby looks away from you? I like to think if it this way, you know how it feels when you have really stretched your brain, for me that’s something like trying to do a cryptic crossword, it hurts, and I have to look away into the distance to ease my brain, well that is what babies are doing when they look away from you. They are overwhelmed for a moment and are taking time out to regroup before they come back for more. Babies love to play and love playing with their parents most because attentive parents just kinda get them. If you really want to make your baby smart, play with them and next time someone asks what you did all day, you can say I help my baby’s brain to grow healthy and strong.
At Dorset Parent Infant Partnership, we support parents to form strong bonds with their baby because the first few years are such a great opportunity for babies to make lasting connections for a lifetime of health and wellbeing. The connections babies make during this time are dependent on their first relationships, environment and experience. If you want help to make the most of your relationship with your baby, then please do get in touch.