Talk, read, sing and play with your newborn baby, because these actions shape her brain development. More important than educational toys and videos, loving care and new experiences develop your child’s brain more than anything else does. Brain cells form before birth, but the brain develops during infancy and early childhood.
Genetics alone do not determine brain development. Early experiences are just as important. Nutrition and interactions with people and with objects help the brain grow and develop. The brain adapts to experiences. If your baby has good early experiences, his brain develops in a good way; but if his experiences are bad because of abuse or neglect, his brain does not develop well, and he could have mental retardation or emotional problems later on.
Developing your infant’s brain starts with meeting her needs. As soon as your baby learns that you feed her when she cries, for example, she develops trust and can focus her attention on the world around her. If you ignore her cries or meet them with roughness, her energies must go toward survival and protection, resulting in her having difficulty interacting with people. Neglect and abuse shuts out needed brain stimulation.
People can learn throughout their lives, but the first three years of life is the prime learning time. It’s important to stimulate all five senses for optimal learning — sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. Show your baby colors, shapes and objects, and move them around. This is how your baby develops sight. Expose your baby to different types of sound. Talk to your baby so he can learn language. Let your baby try to grasp an object to develop motor skills. Help your baby with his emotional development by building trust with him.
By the end of the third month, your baby should start exhibiting some milestones. She should start smiling, enjoying playtime, raising her head and chest while lying on her stomach, kicking her legs when lying on her stomach or back, opening and closing her hands, grasping at toys, watching your face, recognizing familiar people and objects, babbling and turning her head toward sound.
If your baby, at the end of 3 months of age, does not respond to sounds, does not notice his hands, does not follow moving objects or grasp them, does not smile, babble or bring objects to his mouth, take your child to the doctor. Your baby can get an evaluation to determine whether he needs intervention services. Developmental pediatricians, child neurologists and child psychologists all have specialized training in this area.