We know that babies need love to learn. The following are some of the things you can do to help develop that bond with your baby (some of these are very obvious, common sense things that most parents already do on a daily basis but you may not be aware of just how much these simple things are helping to develop your baby’s brain).
- Hold baby (or use a baby carrier) rather than placing baby into a pram or infant carrier seat. Hold, hug and kiss baby routinely throughout the day.
- Provide skin-to-skin contact. Give regular infant massages during bath time or before bed time.
- Hold baby during feeding (rather than propping baby up with a pillow when feeding with a bottle).
- Respond quickly and routinely to baby’s cries. Begin soothing baby with reassuring sounds on the way to picking baby up.
- Try to interpret the meaning of various cries (e.g. hungry, tired, diaper change)
- Establish consistent routines for bathing, sleeping, feeding.
- Introduce baby to new sensations (e.g. textures, temperatures) and verbally label them.
- Provide a variety of objects to explore with hands, mouth and feet and verbally label them.
- When required, make necessary changes to improve quality of baby’s care as soon as possible rather than waiting for a more convenient time.
6-18 Months: As above with the following changes –
- Slow activity levels down periodically – less rushing and provide a calmer atmosphere.
- Respond predictably when faced with a recurring action from baby.
- Develop physical cues that can signal to baby and help to calm him.
- Label feelings, emotions, and experiences as baby behaviours change – e.g. “Are you feeling sleepy?” “That’s hard to do, it’s okay to feel frustrated.” “You seem so proud of yourself.”
- Act positively with baby and demonstrate love and concern (smile, hug, direct eye contact, praise, express pleasure and thankfulness).
- If using childcare, ensure ratio of carers to infants is no more than 1 carer to 3 infants; carers to toddlers is no more than 1 carer to 5 toddlers.
Good bonding is not only great for your baby’s brain development, but it also helps to set the stage for good discipline. The way in which you respond to your baby helps to teach him self-control and self-regulation which forms the foundation for future discipline. Providing consistency, limits and routines establishes a familiarity and security to a child that he comes to depend on and expect these same limitations and boundaries (the cornerstones of discipline) in future.
While it is important to set boundaries for babies, it is also important to provide opportunities. For example, it is important to set up a “do touch” world. Although you can teach a child that certain things are off-limits, e.g. the TV remote, a flower vase, it is much better for your child’s development if you can make his world a touch-friendly environment.
To learn about the environment around him, a baby is compelled to explore it by touching – grabbing, pushing, pulling, putting it into his mouth. Anything new is a source of new information to a baby – is it cold, hard, soft, heavy? Does it move or stay still? Can I carry it? How does it feel inside my mouth? Babies are like mini scientists discovering the world around them. This natural curiosity is what drives a baby to learn. To help babies develop, it is important to encourage their active curiosity. Constantly saying “no” teaches a baby that inquisitiveness is a negative trait and therefore undesirable.