Your baby’s brain triples in size by the time he reaches his first birthday, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Your baby’s experiences during this time will greatly influence his brain development. By stimulating your newborn and interacting with him regularly, you will give your baby’s brain a strong foundation for continued growth and learning.
Your newborn’s brain needs proper nutrition even before he’s born. During pregnancy, you should eat healthy food and avoid alcohol and drugs. After he enters the world, breast milk is the ideal source of nutrition for your baby. If you are unable to breastfeed or choose to formula feed, give your baby an iron-fortified formula. (source 2) Feed newborns on demand and look for hunger cues such as lip smacking. Stop a feeding when your baby stops or starts to fidget.
When a baby experiences emotional or physical stress, her brain signals her adrenal gland to release cortisol, a stress hormone. Excess cortisol causes brain cells to die, decreasing connections between brain cells and destroying important brain circuits. Some stressful experiences, such as an illness, are tolerable to a newborn as long as a caring adult is present. According to the University of Maine, babies with strong emotional attachments to their caregivers exhibit lower cortisol levels in their brains. To develop a strong attachment, respond to your baby when she is upset as well as when she’s happy. Hold, touch and play with her. Cuddling and rocking your baby helps her brain build connections that promote healthy relationships.
A baby is ready to learn about the world around him right from the beginning. You are one of the first things he learns about as he associates your voice, face and touch with food and comfort. Stimulate your baby’s senses by smiling at him, making soothing sounds and gently caressing or massaging him. Babies love to look at faces, especially their mother’s. Make eye contact, talk and sing to your baby. Within the first few days to weeks of life, a newborn will recognize his mother’s face and eventually he will turn his head towards the sound of your voice.
It may seem daunting with a newborn, but take your little one on outings with you. Her brain learns best when she’s given new information. In the beginning, everything is new, so simple trips to the grocery store will positively enhance her brain development. Provide your child with age-appropriate toys. Rattles, unbreakable mirrors and textured and musical toys will stimulate her sight, hearing and touch. Toys with various colors, patterns, curves and symmetry will enhance her visual development. As her vision improves, your baby will be better able to interact with her environment, which will further enhance brain development.