The brain begins developing about three weeks after conception. At birth, newborns have about 100 billion brain cells, according to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. These brain cells grow larger and develop links with each other as newborns grow older. Although some factors in brain development are hereditary, a safe but stimulating environment encourages healthy brain development.
Create a Safe Environment
Positive interactions and low stress levels help newborns' brains make connections and grow synapses, according to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. If babies experience too much stress, their bodies release a hormone called cortisol that can damage brain connections and even kill brain cells. Ensure that your baby has a safe environment for play, cuddle or rock your baby frequently, create a predictable routine and respond quickly when she cries.
Talk, Sing and Read
Talking, singing and reading to newborns encourages brain development and builds the foundation for language development. Describe what you're doing to your baby, ask her questions and read stories together. In addition, respond to your newborn's moods and sounds and try to follow her lead when you play together.
Provide Appropriate Toys
Appropriate toys stimulate newborns' curiosity and help them develop motor skills. Babies are typically interested in mobiles, mirrors, squeeze toys, containers, rattles, board books and musical toys, according to Better Brains for Babies, a project supported by the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences. Babies are also often interested in pictures placed at their eye level. Ensure all toys are age-appropriate and don't contain small pieces or choking hazards.
Newborns are naturally curious about their surroundings. While babies need a consistent schedule and safe environment to feel secure, they can also learn from different places. Carry your baby to a different area of the room, take her to the library or grocery store, or take her outside to provide opportunities for new sights, sounds and smells. However, avoid providing so many new settings that she becomes overwhelmed or upset.
Provide Good Nutrition
Eating a balanced diet and getting prenatal care during pregnancy helps your child develop properly. Babies also need good nutrition for brain development. Breastfeeding provides all the nutrients newborns need; if you don't breastfeed, choose an iron-fortified infant formula, recommends Better Brains for Babies. In addition, cuddling your baby while you bottle-feed will provide the benefits of physical closeness, as breastfeeding does.
TV, tablets and other devices with screens may be a convenient way to entertain your child, but babies learn better from playing and interacting with people, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Unstructured play time encourages problem solving and motor skill development in ways that TV can't. In addition, playing helps infants learn to entertain themselves. Remember that babies can also be distracted by hearing your TV shows in the background, even if they aren't watching. This can detract from their play and from parent-child interaction.
- Better Brains for Babies: Learning and Development: Infants Birth to 12 Months
- Better Brains for Babies: Building Baby’s Brain: What Parents Can Do
- University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Children and Brain Development: What We Know About How Children Learn
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Babies and Toddlers Should Learn From Play Not Screens
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