Though there is still time for her to say 'aah' and 'eeh', her eyes inquisitively search and absorb what she sees. She has already started blinking or frowning in response to loud noises. She can discriminate subtle differences between individual speech sounds. She very much recognizes your voice. It is so much fun watching her rapid growth and awesome too, isn't it?
True, the infant's brain develops rapidly especially in the first year of life signaling the inherent potential for remarkable growth. Smile when she smiles, coo when she coos, fuss when she fusses, maintain eye contact, read, play, sing, and dance - check what else you can do to foster healthy brain development. Above all, shower the much-needed love and attention, for those who are denied enough love and attention in infancy are less likely to become well-adjusted adults.
Peeping into infant's brain
Detailed research on infant brain development has revealed these facts for consideration and understanding.
Time to lay foundation
The prenatal period, infancy, early childhood, middle and late childhood, and adolescence - brain development normally progresses through various stages. A look at the brain structure shows that the chemicals that foster brain development are released in stages. So, different areas of the brain evolve in a sequence.
Detailed researches on the subject indicate that there are certain 'critical periods' and 'sensitive periods' in brain development for different brain functions. During these periods there is a heightened sensitivity to external stimuli. It's the right time to lay foundations. If the stimulus is not appropriate it may be difficult to develop some functions later in life.
For example, at around two months, babies undergo a critical period in the development of vision. Exposure to visual stimuli during this period is advantageous. If not, nerves will degenerate and eventually die. Also, if the infant has a minor eye condition, if unnoticed during this period, it can result in lifelong vision problems.
Compared to critical period, sensitive periods are a longer time, a time when windows open for certain types of learning. When the windows open, if the right inputs are provided, the individual stands to gain better as against learning it at a later period in life. Unlike critical period it doesn't mean missing the opportunity or losing it forever.
For example, during the first six months to two years, the infant experiences an increasing tendency to be attached or friendly with known faces and be wary of unfamiliar adults. The frequency of interactions and quality of experience determines the reaction.If the experience of care giving is consistent then a secure attachment relationship is formed. The attachment can develop at a later period too but not so readily and with some amount of difficulty. Socio-emotional, intellectual, physical development, cognitive skill development, all these if given the right stimuli can develop extremely well and with ease during the sensitive period.
Know what and when
Here is a summarized guide of what an infant normally does, as she gets older by days and months. Parents, caregivers and grandparents who spend valuable time with the infant ought to be aware of what development to expect during the normal course of time. Some infants may take a longer time, which should not be a cause for worry. But too much delay can suggest a disorder, which should be discussed with the health care provider without delay.
First 2 months: It is normal for the infant to sleep long hours.
At 2 months: She would start to smile, make vague noises and also begin to laugh. Very soon she will try to lift her head and shoulders but for a short duration. In the next couple of months she will try to roll over, sit up with support and may hold on to a rattle too.
At 4 months: She can roll over- front and back, right and left. She is curious, tries to reach out and catch things nearby and loves to imitate.
At nine months: She is busy making efforts to stand, sit without support, crawl, and wave goodbye and weary of strangers. Very soon she can utter mama, papa and walk holding hands.
At 12 months: She is ready to cut her birthday cake. She can stand and walk without support and even run. She can hold to spoons and eat from a plate. Her passion for various things unravel - be it colors, toys, people, music etc.
Parent's contribution and infant brain development
As such while feeding, diapering, and holding infants learn a great deal. These precious moments can be utilized well in order to help the infant reach developmental milestones and grow into a confident and independent individual.Check out what can be done to develop a healthy brain while in the womb and thereafter to create a multi-sensory environment.
Fetus care: To contribute positively to infant's brain development, the pregnant mother ought to concentrate on her diet, be active, exercise, follow doctor's instructions, moderate her thoughts and effect lifestyle changes too, if need be.
Omega 3 supplements: The final 13 to 14 weeks of pregnancy is critical. The mother is required to take nutrition rich diet. A good pregnancy diet should include plenty of omega 3 oils with DHA.Specially formulated supplements are available. Omega 3 fats have been shown to stimulate healthy brain cells and connections. These fats are vital during the last trimester of pregnancy and after birth, as well. The mother should continue to take the supplement even after childbirth as long as she is breast-feeding as omega 3 fats do pass through breast milk. There is sufficient proof that indicates infants fed with omega 3 supplements are better off and have a healthy brain development as compared to those who weren't.
Contribution of breastfeeding: Breast milk contains in the right proportion all that is required for brain and nervous system development. There are many intangible benefits for brain development and IQ. It promotes closeness and emotional health, which work as stimulus for the brain.
Be warm and loving: First and foremost important contribution is lots of love and care for the infant. The kind of care a child receives plays a big role in how the brain chooses to wire itself. Talking, holding, cuddling, singing, maintaining eye contacts with infant provide essential nourishment for the brain.
Physical help: Engaging and encouraging infant in physical play activities is important. When you do so, it develops baby's muscle strength, the gross motor control and also develops body awareness. There are simple things, which can be helpful.
Social help: None can live in isolation. Socialization skills are necessary to interact and maintain cordial relationship. There is enough proof that suggests social development skills is not possible without emotional and language skills. Infants tend to observe and imitate parents and caregivers. For example, if parents and caregivers enjoy being in a group and maintain amicable relationship, the chances of infants developing such skills are better. There are simple ways to stimulate social skills.
Infant development toys: Introduce various interaction toys. Infant development toys are designed to develop child's five senses, motor skills and cognitive thinking, as well as social and emotional skills.
Exercise: Besides engaging infant in physical activities that promote motor skills and muscle movement, infancy is not too early a time to introduce simple exercises. Simple kids indoor exercises are beneficial to stimulate and develop infant's brain. Simple movements like moving arms, shaking hands and feet make them aware of their body. Improve visual senses by showing different colors. Use the rattle and watch facial expressions. You will soon find out what is the favorite sound, this contributes to improve hearing senses.
Avoid unpleasantness: Subjecting an infant to unpleasant behavior can have profound and irreversible effect. Over a period of time it can result in psychiatric disorders, dependency on drugs and a variety of relationship problems. Abuse and neglect often result in infant facing emotional, psychological, inter-personal and behavioral disorders.