We’ve been discussing brain development a lot recently in the various groups I support and run, and about how reposonsive care can have a positive impact on how your baby’s brain develops.
But how often as parents have we heard the following?
“You’ll spoil that baby if you keep picking it up all the time”
“You’re making a rod for own back if you pick him up every time he cries”
“She’ll never learn to self soothe if you’re always picking her up”
“You’re feeding again?”
New parents often have an instinct to pick up their baby when they cry, to spend time cuddling and snuggling them, to hold them close, talk to them, soothe and calm them but can feel wary about this because of comments from others.
The 2016 study by Charpak et al “Twenty-year Follow-up of Kangaroo Mother Care Versus Traditional Care” looked at the impact that kangaroo care had on the overall health outcomes of premature babies. The results of the study showed that holding babies and in particular skin to skin contact in the early days is actually really good for them and can have long term effects of health and development.
New babies have a strong need to be close to their parents, as thisUnicef – building a happy baby
helps them to feel secure and loved. When babies feel secure they
release a hormone called oxytocin, which acts like a fertiliser for their
growing brain, helping them to be happy babies and more confident
children and adults. Holding, smiling and talking to your baby also
releases oxytocin in you, which helps you to feel calm and happy
Not only does this close contact in the early days do babies good, its great for parents to, boosting their oxytocin levels and helping to develop that bond and attachements between parents and child.
Babies who have experienced reposonsive care will grow up to become positve and confident children who understand that they have a caregiver who will support them as they explore the world.
Responsive care is about reciprocal communication, interpretting what your baby is trying to tell you and responding appropriately (more on this in here). This conversation build a baby’s skills, knowledge and experience allowing them to evaluate situations, solve problems and build relationships.
Your baby’s brain is developing at an immense rate, at birth they have approximately 100 billion neurons in their brain. The connections between these at birth support vital functions for survival
- controling syrtems such as respiration and heart rate
- recognising parents
- communicating their needs such as hunger, tempertaure, comfort
But as they grow and develop after birth they building connections between neurons at a rate of approximately 700 per second, every interaction and experience (positve or negative) a baby has builds more connections in their brain. This builds the foundations in the brain that will shape the way your baby will think and process information and develop realtionships for life.
Responsive care and appropriate responces to the cues and questions from your baby reinforces the positive connections between neurons in the brain, building stronger foundations.
So when you get those comments from a relative or a friend, no matter how well meaning they are simply remember:
“With every cuddle and snuggle, every glance and word, every kiss and caress, I’m growing my baby’s brain and helping them get ready for the world”
See the links below for more info:
- How a child’s brain develops from the womb to age five, 2017, Theirworld
- How Brains are Built: The Core Story of Brain Development, Alberta Family Wellness
- How Children and Adults Can Build Core Capabilities for Life, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University
- Five Numbers to Remember about Early Childhood Development, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University
- Twenty-year Follow-up of Kangaroo Mother Care Versus Traditional Care, (2016) Nathalie Charpak, Rejean Tessier, Juan G. Ruiz, Jose Tiberio Hernandez, Felipe Uriza, Julieta Villegas, Line Nadeau,Catherine Mercier, Francoise Maheu, Jorge Marin, Darwin Cortes, Juan Miguel Gallego, Dario Maldonado
- The Evolved Developmental Niche in Childhood: Relation to Adult Psychopathology and Morality, (2015) Darcia Narvaez, Lijuan Wang, Ying Cheng
- A New Understanding of the Childhood Brain (2017), a video from The Atlantic