During your pregnancy, you no doubt took great care of the growing baby inside you by getting prenatal care from your OB/GYN, eating well, exercising when you could, and reading up on all things related to “what to expect, when expecting.”
But did you know that your newborn’s learning will start at birth? Yes, indeed! Born with approximately 100 billion brain cells, your baby will start to learn, think, and work his body systems, forming brain connections in response to the sensory experiences and early care you provide. So how can you best support your newborn baby’s early development and learning from day one? It’s easy, just follow these simple practices:
- Provide consistent loving and responsive care to your baby. Many parents don’t realize that the quality of the nurturing and love they give their children not only influences how their children’s brains are wired but also how they grow physically. From birth, a baby’s brain can automatically run on survival mode to protect itself from any unknown dangers in the world. Babies who do not build strong attachment and trust with their caregivers are often in this stressful survival state, exposing them to the higher likelihood of experiencing poor development in their physical growth, immune system development, ability to learn, and emotional well-being. However, with consistent loving and responsive care, your newborn will feel safe and supported enough to switch off survival mode and turn on one of discovery and learning.
- Focus on building your newborn’s gross motor (large muscle) Babies physically develop in a predictable pattern: from head to toes and from the innermost parts of their bodies (torso) to the outermost (fingers/toes). You can support your baby’s gross motor skills by using simple exercises that strengthen his large muscle groups. One of the best physical exercises you can use at this age is tummy time. Tummy time is critical to your baby’s development because it allows him to feel his different large muscles working together. It also helps to strengthen his neck and upper back muscles, building the foundation that will lead to his later ability to sit up, crawl, and eventually walk. And don’t forget that for newborns, the best way to do tummy time together is during “kangaroo care,” when you lay your baby facing you on top of your chest, skin to skin.
- Expose your baby to interesting sensory experiences. Young babies learn about the world around them through their five senses: touch, sight, smell, hearing, and taste. From birth, your newborn will have a heightened sense of touch because the sensory cortex, which processes touch sensations, is the most developed part of his brain. As a result, he will enjoy touch-related care, including kangaroo care, hugs and caresses, and infant massage. To support visual tracking, auditory and gross motor development, try playing a fun game of “Where’s the Noise?” every day. This exercise will not only encourage your newborn to begin turning his head, but it will also strengthen his cross-the-midline brain connections.
Yes, your life as a new parent will become insanely busy once baby comes into the world to say “hello.” But if you just follow these simple practices, you’ll be well ahead in supporting your baby’s early development and learning to its fullest from birth.
By Yvette Hwee
Playful Bee, Founder and CEO
Playful Bee is a personalized early learning curriculum and tool that helps parents support and nurture their babies growth and development and get them ready for school. While parenting a 0-3 year old is hard work, you don’t have to do it alone. Let Playful Bee discover the best in early education for your child, so that you don’t have to. To learn more about Playful Bee, go to www.playfulbee.com.