What Can Affect an Infant's Cognitive Development?

By Rose Welton
Responding to your baby's needs will help encourage his cognitive development.
Responding to your baby's needs will help encourage his cognitive development.

Your baby's brain has 100 billion neurons at birth, according to Scholastic.com. These neurons are waiting to be used and connected as your baby observes and learns about his world. While there are plenty of things you can do to help foster your infant’s cognitive development, it is also important to be aware of the factors that could negatively affect it.


One of the most important positive factors that can affect an infant’s cognitive development is bonding. According to the Kids Health website, responding to your infant’s cries and establishing plenty of skin-to-skin and eye contact positively influence her brain development. Additionally, responding to her needs helps to provide reassurance and emotional security. Stimulation and age-appropriate toys and games will help her to understand things like object permanence and cause and effect, and conversation, books and songs will positively affect her cognitive development as well.


Sleep and adequate nutrition are necessary for cognitive development, so if your infant is getting less than 14 to 16 hours of sleep spread throughout the day, his brain development could be negatively affected. He also needs either breast milk or infant formula, and babies deprived of these nutrients could experience failure to thrive. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, being cared for by a hostile caretaker will impair an infant’s development as well. Just as your baby’s brain thrives in positive environments, it will adapt poorly in negative environments.


Since your baby’s cognitive development begins in the womb, there are positive and negative influences even before infancy. Getting enough rest, eating healthy and avoiding risky foods such as high-mercury fish can help your baby’s brain to begin developing normally. In contrast, dangerous activity during pregnancy, such as drug use, can lead to learning and behavioral problems later in your child’s life.


If you are concerned about your infant’s cognitive development, or if you are aware of negative factors in her development, talk to her doctor. The doctor might be able to help you identify and remove harmful influences and could recommend a professional to help work with your baby in order to boost brain development.

About the Author

Rose Welton is a journalism major and a freelance writer. Her education is focused on nutrition and early childhood studies, making her an expert when it comes to writing about health and children's growth and development. She has written numerous articles and blog posts on various topics for online publications and has also worked on an Internet news team.