How to Build Your Baby's Brain
In your maternal journey, you’ve made it through pregnancy, birth, the first diaper change, first feeding, first night at home, and now you’re settling into a routine. You’re a new mother, recovering from the birth experience, your days with filled with bonding, feeding, and soon enough, playing. Then comes the question, “How do I play with my baby?”
First, some background on baby’s brain…
At birth, baby’s 100 billion neurons form 50 trillion synapses (neural connections). Genes predetermined the brain's basic wiring. Connections in the brain stem make the heart beat and lungs respire. But that's all. Roughly half of a human's 80,000 different genes are needed to form and run the central nervous system. But the brain’s needs eclipse all others, the number of synapses increasing twentyfold to more than 1,000 trillion. (Begley, 1997).
Play is a critical element of brain development. The impact of the environment and stimulation provided in the first years of life cannot be understated. Tummy time, for example, is crucial because it strengthens coordination and catalyzes the development of visual and gross motor skills. Frequently babies cry during nascent tummy time, sometimes leading the mother to conclude the activity is uncomfortable for baby. Usually this crying is simply a natural reaction to a developmentally challenging activity. Keep working hard on tummy time.
We think a lot about healthy, brain-building activities for newborns. Examples abound of challenges traceable to missed development opportunities. Many school age children have low muscle tone in their necks and shoulders. These children may have difficulty copying from a whiteboard or performing fine motor tasks, such as handwriting.
Here are a few tips and tricks to stimulate brain development in newborns:
Get down on the floor with baby.
Be creative and make tummy time playtime for both of you.
As babies get stronger, they begin to push up on their arms and stretch their necks. Use toys to encourage this.
Coax baby into to reaching and grabbing, sure signs baby is advancing.
Add music and language for additional stimulus.
If resistant to the floor, try putting your newborn across your lap, tummy down.
Or, lie down on the floor and put baby on your chest. This is an easy way to promote tummy time throughout the day and often babies are happier when close to mommy.
Offer tummy often and throughout the day to actively increase brain and body development in your newborn. The first year is a critical period for brain development and you can play an active role in your baby’s growth!