The experiences and relationships your baby has in their initial years are crucial for their development.1 Creating a loving and nurturing environment helps your baby’s brain to develop and also lays the foundation for your baby’s future learning.1
A healthy start for the brain
Healthy brain development starts during pregnancy. For instance, a healthy diet with the right nutrients (e.g., 400 mcg folic acid) promote healthy brain growth in the growing baby.2
In infancy, healthy brain development continues to depend on the right nutrition and care.3
Your baby is born with millions of brain cells, or neurons which quickly start to make connections – as the baby interacts with the world.4 Routine activities like playing, being read to, being responded to by people—helps with your baby’s brain development.5
Your baby’s developing brain needs:
- Nurturing and positive experiences: Routine everyday experiences help shape your baby’s brain. They need you to understand when they are tired, or hungry, or stressed or that they want to be hugged and cuddled. Responding warmly and predictably creates a routine that helps your baby feel safe.5
- Fun activities like talking or reading to your baby will help them grow.5
- Nutritious food: If you are able to breastfeed, breastmilk is the best food you can give your baby for the first 6 months. Feeding time should be considered as a brain-building time too: making eye contact, smiling, and having skin contact are all positive experiences.5
What can you do to help your baby’s brain development?
- Respond to your baby: Babies who are handled more in their earliest months feel more confident and secure. Responding to your baby is especially important when the baby is unwell, hungry or upset. Holding your crying baby makes them feel loved and protected. Cuddling and keeping you baby close to you means they will cry less which is good for their brain development.4,5
- Provide a safe, loving and calm environment for your baby5
- Talking to your baby: Even though your little one can’t really understand what you are saying, talking to them can help tremendously with the development of language.6
- Watch your baby notice the world: Notice the health of your baby’s eyes to assure that they are taking in the colours, faces, and shapes around them.6
- Take your baby for a regular health check-up5
- Pregnancy, Birth and Baby. How your baby’s brain develops [Internet]. Available at: https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/how-your-babys-brain-develops. Accessed on Feb 26, 2020.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Folic Acid [Internet]. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/about.html. Accessed on Feb 26, 2020.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early Brain Development and Health [Internet]. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/early-brain-development.html. Accessed on Feb 26, 2020.
- Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. Facts about your child’s development [Internet]. Available at: https://www.sheffieldchildrens.nhs.uk/services/health-visiting/facts-about-your-childs-development/. Accessed on Feb 26, 2020.
- Canadian Paediatric Society. Your baby’s brain: How parents can support healthy development [Internet]. Available at: https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/your_babys_brain. Accessed on Feb 26, 2020.
- Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California. Early Brain Development [Internet]. Available at: https://ucanr.edu/sites/ReadytoSucceed/Articles_of_Interest/Early_Brain_Development/. Accessed on Feb 26, 2020.