From the minute our little bundles of joy enter the world, their brains are constantly growing and developing. At birth, a baby’s brain has very few connections and ‘hard wirings’. The primary function is centred on basic survival patterns like feeding, sleeping and pooping! Did you know that a baby could only see black and white until 3 months?
In those first 12 months of life, the connections in the brain are multiplying tenfold. In order for new connections to be created, our bubs must be exposed to different sounds, smells, positions and interactions. The quality of our brain connections are nurtured by the experiences we have in our baby years. If when we were born we were put in a dark room with no sound, no light or no touch we would not survive the first few weeks of life regardless of being provided food and water!
So how can we help our little ones brains reach their maximum potential? Here are a few of my tops tips in growing healthy brains!
In a newborn, the brain responds better to auditory, rather than visual cues as there are few connections laid down in the visual area of the brain at birth. Babies find it hard to focus on brightly coloured objects or follow rapid movements. To avoid overstimulation, I recommend steering clear of brightly coloured mobiles above the cot, and avoid putting your baby in front of the TV screen. During this time, use a music box or sing to your bub to sooth them.
My next tip is LOTS of tummy time! At least 40 minutes per day (short bursts are best!). In utero a baby is curled up in a flexed position for many months– meaning when they enter the world, they have very poor muscle tone through the back of their necks and little bodies. Tummy time helps fire up the muscles of the back and neck, which are crucial in allowing a child to sit, crawl and walk down the track. If tummy time is missed, you may find your child is a late crawler or may not crawl at all. This can have a profound affect on later development. Crawling is one of the few things a baby does, which involves the use of both the left and right side of the brain at the same time! Recent studies have shown that children, who do not crawl, are more likely to have developmental delays (reading and writing) as there connections between the left and right side of the brain are poor.
Baby massage is another great way to stimulate the touch pathways in the brain. Start at the feet and work your way up, using medium large strokes towards the head. Pay special attention to the fingers and toes, as these areas contain the most nerve fibres in the body!
By creating a stimulating environment for our baby’s, we are ensuring their little brains reach their full potential!
Written by Dr. Jemima Nelson
B. Science/Psychology + Masters Chiropractic
Diplomate in Chiropractic Paediatrics Australia