Setting the Foundation: How to Help Your Baby Develop a Healthy Brain

Our brains undergo massive change and growth from birth to age three.

In the first few years of life, more than one million new neural connections are formed every second! During this time, babies learn how to eat, walk, talk, and interact with the world around them. It is also when babies begin to develop mental health and establish the foundation for social, emotional, and cognitive development.

Positive mental health helps children thrive. A baby’s emotional wellbeing is entirely dependent on safe, responsive, and loving caregiver interactions.

Early experiences affect the development of the brain, which over time provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health.

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University

To develop healthy brains and positive wellbeing, babies need:

A sturdy foundation built by appropriate input from a child’s senses.

One way to think about mental health for children is that it’s like the levelness of a piece of furniture, such as a table. Tables can’t make themselves level; they need attention from those who understand levelness and stability and who can adjust the environment so the table is on solid ground.

Stable, responsive relationships with caring adults.

Babies learn about the world through the adults who love them. Experiencing positive interactions and relationships help babies develop the problem-solving, communication, self-control, and relationship skills needed to succeed in life.

Healthy “serve and return” interactions, a term used to describe the interaction between children and the adults who care for them.

Like the process of serve and return in games such as tennis and volleyball, young children naturally reach out for interaction through babbling and facial expressions. If adults do not respond by getting in sync and doing the same kind of vocalizing and gesturing back, the child’s learning process is incomplete.

To help your baby’s brain grow and make sense of the world, focus on creating early experiences through healthy, responsive relationships.

Be responsive to your baby.

Tune in to your baby’s temperament so you can respond often and appropriately.

Bond and create connections with them.

Talk with your baby constantly by narrating your day. Research also tells us that sharing songs and stories with a baby nurtures verbal intelligence and emotional growth.

Spend quality time by engaging in activities with them.

Look for moments where you can share wonders with your child. Even the simple act of holding them supports development by offering sensory nourishment.

The bottom line? Spend time with your baby!

There is no such thing as spoiling infants with too much attention. Babies and children thrive when they have regular interactions with responsive, caring adults.

When children have what they need to develop well in the early years, they can thrive and be healthy throughout their lives. To learn more about early childhood mental health and the services North Range provides, visit: NorthRange.org/Family-Connects.


Sources: Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University

Resources:

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