So you have a baby. A baby can take up a lot of energy and time. In fact sometimes it seems like an endless train of sleep, eat, wash, change and repeat! There are many physical demands on the mother, father and in fact the whole family unit has to adjust to this new little person as they carve out their space in the family unit and in the world.
Having a baby is certainly one of life’s greatest privileges many cultures view babies as a gift or a great blessing. They certainly are full of life- bringing joy and a sense of fun with their baby babbles and funny antics.
The days have gone where mothers traditionally stayed home with their infants. These days’ parents are caught between the world of work and the world of home making. The balance is sometimes hard to find. For every family and individual it is different. Keeping a focus on what are the most important things for a baby amidst the busy schedules of life can be hectic. Besides keeping them fed, rested and happy what other intentional steps should parents take to help our babies thrive emotionally and cognitively?
The first 1000 days have recently become a concept that many people around the world are talking about. In the 80’s with the technology now available to scan and research brain development and responses the medical world of neuroscience took off. Armed with many studies on brain development this concept of the first 100 days from conception to near the 2nd birthday of a child has come into sharp focus as a unique sensitive period in a person’s development. We know the basic foundations that will allow a baby to thrive developmentally. These include great nutrition, a safe environment, quality sleep and loving relationships. One area that doesn’t seem to come so naturally to many is what we as parents can do to stimulate our babies cognitively in a way that promotes optimal brain growth.
Baby’s brains are in fact growing at a rate unparalleled to any other stage of life. New neuro connections are being made every minute of the day and they are actually wired to make sense of the world around them. Once a parent is made aware of this the questions begin… What should I be doing to enhance this stage in my child’s life? What type of stimulations would best serve my baby?
There are entire websites dedicated to assisting us parents- such as www.first1000days.fl.org. Many recognized international and national bodies are talking about it such as UNICEF government platforms. Did you know that by age 3 the child’s brain has reached 80% of its adult size?! THREE! The quality of experiences in those first days set up the foundation for the way this person will be for the rest of their lives. The case for nurture has never been so strong. Watch this clip by Nathan Wallis- an expert in baby brain development. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UWbCnv1vno) It seems that assisting our baby’s brain growth come down to 2 basic factors.
The best news is that neither cost money! Once we realize that our daily interactions with our babies are the pivot from which they will understand the world then suddenly this challenge becomes a whole lot simpler. We are their first sounding boards, we are their first relationship, we are their first teacher and we are their guide to the world. Communication with our babies is such a wonderful rich tool to get to know them, to cherish their own uniqueness and build a stronger relationship with them. As we communicate we build our relationships and as we build our relationship we communicate! I love a simple list and I found this list from Vroom particularly useful. Some of these points might come more naturally to you whilst other may need some further attention. An extroverted parent may find some of these easier to implement- such as chatting to your baby. While for an introverted parent creating conversations can be more of a challenge by they may be better at the point ‘follow’. No matter your personality type this list is supposed to enthuse and inspire you so that as you spend time with your little one you will feel empowered to communicate and grow their brain at the same time. Try them out and add them to your parenting ‘tool kit’.
Download it and print it. Watch their You Tube clips and get to grips with these 5 valuable tools to communication with our babies and young children.
Isn’t it great to know that our babies don’t actually NEED special music classes, baby gym, baby stimulation groups or any specialized educational program. They need us, they need a primary caregiver/s that they have a relationship with. They need something as simple as conversations. What an important and special role to play in their life of our little ones during these early years- it is certainly something to treasure.
I am going to be doing a little experiment next week with my 9 month old. I will commit to try out each of these steps intentionally on each day of the week (Monday to Friday) and see where they lead. Follow my Instagram account to see what we get up to as we experiment using these 5 steps in our interactions.
Then try them out yourself and tag us #thiscreatedday, #thiscreateddaylearning, #thiscreateddayfirst1000days and comment here and let us encourage each other on this journey.