Advances in medical imaging have given researchers and parents a view into the brains of babies. This, in turn, helps parents, doctors and caregivers understand how best to help the baby develop. The more parents understand about their baby’s brain, the better they are able to help the child achieve his fullest potential.
In less than 10 months, your baby goes from being a single cell to a fully developed newborn. Your baby’s brain begins developing early, just a few weeks after conception. According to the website First Steps, your baby will make between 50,000 and 100,000 new brain cells every second between the fifth and 12th week of development. That means that prenatal care and nutrition are vital for sound brain development. Illness, chemicals and poor nutrition can adversely affect your baby’s brain.
According to the University of Georgia’s website Better Brains for Babies, your baby is born with more than 1 billion brain cells. However, many of these cells are alone. Babies are born without many of the neurological connections necessary for movement, learning and language. Babies start making connections with every experience they have. Neurologists call this brain plasticity, but parents recognize that their children are sponges for every type of learning around them. This includes talking to your baby, touching her and playing. These experiences wire the brain’s cells together, developing memory, language and coordination.
Toddler and Preschoolers
In the first years, your baby makes billions of neurological connections, many more connections than the child will need. As the child repeats words, actions and experiences, the brain recognizes the neural pathways used. The frequented neural pathways become stronger, while the random, less-used pathways disintegrate. The Purdue University website Provider-Parent Partnership, suggests that this action is much like weeding unnecessary plants from a garden. This is one of the reasons why young children repeat important experiences over and over again. It helps to ingrain the lessons into their brain.
What Parents Can Do
Parents play a critical role in helping their baby develop to the best of her potential. Good prenatal care and nutrition is vital. In addition, parents should keep the child’s environment as stress-free as possible. Stress, like any other reaction, can also be learned in infancy. Instead, fill your child’s day with positive, loving activities. Talk to her. Play with her. Touch her often. The University of Georgia also recommends that you start reading to your baby early. Reading aloud helps the child develop social and language skills.