When it comes to physical development, your kewpie will need up to year to go from “just lying there” to gaining muscle movement; progress to rolling over, crawling, cruising and eventually graduate to walking and jumping.
Mental development, on the other hand, is much more dynamic. It starts in the womb and continues after birth. Your newborn’s brain is adding 250,000 neurones every minute and will continue to grow for the next few years, doubling in size by the time he celebrates his first birthday. In fact, bubba’s brain grows more rapidly from birth up to 3 years of age than it ever will at any other point in his lifetime.
Surprised? Read on for more amazing facts about your little one’s brain development.
#1 Your baby is born with a memory bank
At birth, bub’s hippocampus, the part of the brain that processes long- and short-term memory is already 40 per cent developed. This is why right after birth, baby can recognise mummy’s voice and other sounds or songs he heard while inside the womb. Your tot’s memory keeps developing and by week 6, she’ll know that hunger pangs means it’s time for the breast or bottle. By four months, junior starts recognising faces and deciding who she wants to see and who she doesn’t. Routines are a perfect way to hone your sweetie’s memory skills and boost brain development as it helps her trigger her memory for what’s to come next.
Junior may take a while to utter his or her first word, but their brain starts preparing for speech much earlier.
#2 Your baby has a super active brain
Bub’s brain is growing at super speed, so she’s absorbing everything around her – the sights, smells, bright lights, people talking etc. This explains why she gets over stimulated easily and can’t tune anything out when there’s too much going on. If you want your little bundle to focus on certain tasks like eating or sleeping, the best thing to do is take them somewhere less noisy and with dim lights. Also, since your mite’s attention is all over the place, the only way to really grab her interest is to speak in “parentese”, a high-low pitch variation which works better than the regular way of talking.
#3 Your baby is preparing for speech by 7 months
Junior may take a while to utter his or her first word, but their brain starts preparing for speech much earlier. A University of Washington study of 7- and 11-month-old infants showed that speech sounds activated areas of the brain that coordinate and plan motor movements for speech. This means that although babies can’t voice their thoughts, their brain is already trying to figure out how to make the right movements that will produce the words they want to say.
#4 Your baby is ready to tackle more than just one language
Not only is your baby’s brain capable of learning any language you expose them to, an infant who is raised in a bilingual or trilingual household will also grow up with advanced cognitive skills. Being able to speak more than one language has a profound long-term effect on baby’s brain with the strongest effects seen in intelligence, attention and memory. So, don’t be worried that exposing your infant to more than one language might result in speech delay, their brain is so powerful it will adapt along the way! If you don’t know where to start, check out our guide to raising a bilingual child.
#5 Your baby will develop their language skills if you keep talking
It may seem awkward at first to talk to a baby who doesn’t respond but keep at it because it offers great benefits. According to a child brain development study by the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy, babies whose parents talk to them frequently know 300 more words by the age of 2 than babies whose parents don’t talk as often. Need some tips on how to make small talk with your sweetie? An easy way is to do a running commentary of your day. For example, “Now we are going to NTUC to buy some groceries,” or “Time to do another load of laundry. Shall we do whites today?”. Another simple way to boost bub’s language is to read to them. The Marsico Institute recommends reading aloud as it stimulates brain development.
Holding and stroking your infant also releases important hormones that will help their brain grow.
#6 Your baby is learning and absorbing everything around them
Something amazing happens to your infant’s brain in the first year of their life. The 100 billion neurones she’s born with will start connecting with one another as they create trillions of synapses. These synapses form the foundation for your child to understand the world around her and make connections. Bub’s brain power is at it’s all-time strongest, because at no other time in their life will so many neuronal connections be made. Your little genius’s brain is literally like a sponge that’s absorbing everything it’s exposed to. No better time to introduce your peewee to as many things and experiences as possible. Make full use of tummy time to talk, sing, read and explore objects with your wee one.
#7 The more you hug your baby, the bigger her brain will grow
Don’t listen to people who say you’ll spoil your baby with too much love. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Constant hugs and kisses of reassurance help babies make stronger neuronal connections and improves their overall well-being. A 2012 study by child psychiatrists and neuroscientists at the Washington University in St Louis found a strong relationship between maternal nurturing and the size of the hippocampus in children. Kids who come from a loving family environment have considerably larger and better developed hippocampus. Holding and stroking your infant also releases important hormones that will help their brain to grow. So, hug away mums and don’t hold back, especially when bubba is going through a hard time with sleep regressions or their first cold.
#8 Growing a brain is hard work!
All that rapid brain development will no doubt use up a lot of your wee one’s energy. In fact, about 60 per cent of bub’s metabolic energy is spent on growing his brain. This is a big contrast to adults, who only use about 20 per cent of their body’s energy to power their brains. This explains why babies need to sleep a lot in the early months and why naps are still important in toddlerhood.
In case you missed these…