When a baby is born, their brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons. To put things in perspective, that number is equivalent to the amount of stars that make up the Milky Way!
Over a child’s first few years of life, they will develop trillions of brain-to-cell connections in their brain. However, if a little one’s synapses are not wired properly during early life, they will be naturally pruned by the time they're old enough to go to school. This means the best and most important education a little one receives is actually in their very early formative years (and their favorite teacher is usually his mom).
According to Scholastic.com, “When [a mom] provide[s] loving, language-enriched experiences…[baby’s brain] neural connections and pathways [are given] more opportunities to become wired together. In turn, they will acquire rich language, reasoning. and planning skills.” It goes without saying that these skills will benefit him throughout his lifetime.
On the flip side, if a mom doesn’t do enough to stimulate her baby during his crucial early years of life, their development may be slowed. It’s important to be aware of the best ways to assist a baby in his development to ensure he learns and grows as much as they can during their formative years. Read on for 20 ways mom doesn’t realize she is slowing baby’s development.
Mom may not realize that she can do harm to her baby’s development before they ever take their first breath. If she doesn’t take care of herself properly while baby is in the womb, the consequences can be extreme. Learning disabilities have been linked to certain harmful things a mom ingests while her baby is growing inside of her.
Scholastic.com advises, “Stay healthy while...pregnant and be aware that certain [things] can be destructive to [baby’s] brain in the uterus. Many children who were [introduced to dangerous ingredinets] in the womb struggle with severe learning problems and suddenly act with unprovoked aggressive behaviors.”
It may seem counterintuitive to talk to a baby when she can’t talk back, but gabbing with her is one of the most beneficial things Mom can do to assist in her brain development. Conversely, staying quiet and not interacting enough with baby could have long-lasting negative effects.
According to WebMD.com, “When you talk with your baby, two things happen: the baby learns, and you bond. And the more you talk, the more those things happen... Your baby needs to hear real words in order to learn to talk. Scholastic.com advises, “Remember: The areas of the brain responsible for understanding speech and producing language need your rich input.”
While playtime is fun, many moms may not realize how important play (or lack thereof) can be for baby’s development. Silly voices, funny songs, and clever nursery rhymes are hugely beneficial to a baby’s brain. Moms who don’t sing, talk to, or interact with their babies on a regular basis in a fun, playful way could be inadvertently slowing the development of their treasured tots.
According to Scholastic.com, “Activities like patty-cake, peekaboo, this little piggy, or even puppets engage your baby and capture his attention. Using your hands shows young children how we physically interact with our world — plus, hands-on activities are simply more fun for both of you!”
In today’s world, it’s easy for a new mom to turn to her phone for a much-needed reprieve from diaper changes and constant feedings, but it’s important she doesn’t allow herself to become so wrapped up in the online world that she doesn’t pay enough attention to her beautiful baby.
Showing interest in the things baby is interested in is a proven way to improve their brain development and fosters a sense of wonder in them that can last a lifetime. Scholastic.com advises, “When your child points, be sure to follow with your gaze and remark on items or events of interest to [them]. This ‘joint attention’ confirms how important [their] interests and observations are to you.”
Believe it or not, one of the major ways moms slow baby’s development is by not reading to her enough. As simple as it seems, reading to baby can go a long way in aiding her language acquisition and even eventual reading proficiency.
According to Scholastic.com, one of the best things a mom can do to further baby’s development is to “foster an early passion for books.” The site continues, “Choose books with large, colorful pictures and share your baby’s delight in pointing at certain images or even making noises that correspond with the book. Remember that building your baby’s receptive language (understanding spoken words) is more important than developing [her] expressive language (speaking) in infancy.”
It is an incorrect assumption that moms can “spoil” their babies by giving them too much love and affection. In fact, touch is not only good for a baby’s emotional development. It can actually improve their brain development as well. Children who don’t receive enough human touch early in life often develop more slowly than those who do.
Scholastic.com advises, “Stroke [their] tummy and hair when reading, playing or even diapering. Studies have shown that babies who are not often touched have brains that are smaller than normal for their age, and interacting with [them] close-up also helps direct [their] attention to your speech.”
As Baby grows, he’ll begin to show interest in playing with toys. It’s important to remember that not all playthings are created equal. Toys that foster creativity and encourage development are superior to those that don’t. Mom can slow a baby’s development by not providing toys that stimulate brain growth and can help the baby by finding toys that do.
Scholastic.com explains, “Toys such as a windup jack-in-the-box or stackable blocks help your baby learn cause-and-effect relationships and ‘if-then’ reasoning. For instance, if a child stacks too many blocks without straightening them, they fall down. If they successfully stack blocks on top of each other, they ‘wire in’ that information.”
Allowing a baby to cry it out can have lasting negative effects on her brain. According to Dr. Margot Sunderland, Director Of Education and Training at The Center for Child Mental Health in London, “I would be very surprised if any parent continued to use ‘cry it out’ if they knew the full extent of what’s happening to their infant’s brain. The infant brain is so vulnerable to stress.”
Scholastic.com advises, “Soothe, nurture, cuddle and reassure [your baby] so that you build positive brain circuitry in the limbic areas of the brain, which is involved in emotions. Your calm holding and cuddling, and your day-to-day engagement with your baby, signal emotional security to the brain.”
Too much screen time has been proven to negatively affect children, but recent studies have found that parents who opt for staring at their phones over interacting with their babies may be doing unintentional harm. According to psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair, “We are behaving in ways that certainly tell children they don’t matter, they’re not interesting to us, they’re not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them.”
According to Scholastic.com, “When your child is playing, resist the temptation to check [social media]. Instead, get on the ground and spend time interacting with him. Babies who are securely attached to you emotionally will be able to invest more energy in the pleasures of exploration, learning, and discovery.”
Believe it or not, a mom who doesn’t touch her baby enough may be slowing her child’s development. Giving baby a simple massage after bath time or stroking their hair as they snuggle close may be one of the most important things her brain needs to thrive.
Scholastic.com advises, “Give their a body massage. This can lower your infant’s stress levels and enhance her feelings of well-being and emotional security. Loving touches even promote growth in young babies: Research has shown that premature babies who are massaged three times daily are ready to leave the hospital days earlier than babies who do not receive massages.”
Moms who don’t give their children responsibilities may be slowing their growth. As a child becomes more and more capable and independent, encouraging them to help out at clean-up time and with simple household chores aides in their development.
Scholastic.com states, “Enlist help from your toddler at clean-up times. This is a wonderful way to practice categorization. Toddlers learn that stuffed animals have one place to go for ‘night-night’ time: cars, trucks and other vehicles also have their special storage place. Children need to learn about sorting into categories and seriation (placing things in order; for example, from smallest to largest) as part of their cognitive advancement.”
Moms who don’t babyproof are not only setting themselves up for unintended messes and unfortunate injuries, they may also be slowing the development of their children by failing to provide a safe place for them to explore and thrive.
According to Scholastic.com, “Your mobile child will begin to understand spatial parameters and vocabulary such as under, over, big, little, near, and far, plus the relationship between objects of different shapes and sizes (those that are big versus little, for instance). They will start to establish mental maps of their environment and a comfortable relationship with the world in which they live.”
Babies who know what to expect and feel safe and secure are more likely to develop cognitively. Moms who never stick to a routine may add stress to their babies that in turn affects their developmental progress.
According to Scholastic.com, “Some children adjust easily to strange situations — some are bold and impulsive, some are quite shy. Go with the flow as you try to increase a shy child’s courage and comfort level, or help a highly active child safely use her fantastic energy while learning impulse control. Your acceptance will give them the comfort they need to experiment and learn freely.”
Believe it or not, a lack of lullabies could slow a baby’s development. It has been proven that singing to babies is wonderful for their brains and their overall development. Scholastic.com encourages new moms to sing to their babies whenever possible, even if the vocals are less-than-stellar.
The site advises, “When you can, add body motions and finger play (like waving your arms during ‘You Are My Sunshine’ or miming rain falling during ‘Rain, Rain, Go Away’). This helps your baby connect sounds with large and small motor actions. Songs also enhance their learning of rhythms, rhymes and language patterns.”
Healthy foods have been proven to improve brain development in babies and young children, and moms who don’t take the time to make mealtimes a positive experience, or who don’t encourage baby to feed themselves when the time is right, may be impeding their progress.
Scholastic.com advises, “Make meals positive. Say the names of foods out loud as your baby eats. Express pleasure as he learns to feed himself, no matter how messy the initial attempts may be. This will create pleasant associations with mealtime and eating. Battles and nagging about food, on the other hand, can lead to negative brain patterns.”
Moms who are inconsistent in their responses to and interactions with their babies, or, as previously mentioned, who don’t follow a regular routine, may add stress and confusion into the lives of their children. These emotions can most definitely impede developmental progress. It’s important to be consistent with discipline, bedtime, mealtime, and naptime routines and in all day-to-day interactions with little ones.
Scholastic.com states, “Provide clear responses to your baby’s actions. A young, developing brain learns to make sense of the world if you respond to your child’s behavior in predictable, reassuring and appropriate ways. Be as consistent as possible.”
According to WebMD.com, “As your child grows, so does your role as mediator. There’ll be boundaries to establish, disputes between siblings to settle, timeouts to monitor. Discipline isn’t the easiest thing to administer, but it’s part of the job, and it’s healthy for your child.”
While discipline is important, if consequences are doled out in a way that is frightening or too harsh, it may have a negative impact on baby’s development. Scholastic.com advises, “Use positive discipline. Create clear consequences without frightening or causing embarrassment to your child...Keep rules simple, consistent and reasonable for your child’s age.”
Babies are always watching and learning from their mothers. Moms who model empathy in their everyday lives are teaching their children how to have healthy interactions with others. Those who don’t may be inadvertently harming a child’s emotional development.
Scholastic.com advises, “Model empathic feelings for others. Use teachable moments when someone seems sad or upset to help your toddler learn about feelings, caring, sharing and kindness. The more brain connections you create for empathic responses and gentle courtesies, the more these brain circuits will be wired in. This helps not only with language and cognitive learning, but with positive emotional skills, too.”
Babies can be messy, and it can be tempting for moms to resist allowing a little one to get too messy, but making messes is actually a great way for baby to learn and grow. Moms who are too concerned about clean-up may miss out on teaching their children valuable cognitive skills. That’s right. Making mud pies and potato volcanoes can actually make kids smarter!
Scholastic.com advises, “Arrange supervised play with messy materials. It can be water, sand, and even slime or goop! This will teach your child about the properties of liquids, solids, and mixtures — sensory experiences that are crucial for the learning brain.”
Anxiety and depression often accompany the postpartum period of motherhood. If you experience either of these things get help as soon as possible. This is the best thing for you and your baby. Scholastic.com advises, “Express joy and interest in your baby. Let your body language, your shining eyes...and your gentle caresses and smiles validate the deeply lovable nature of your little one.”
WebMD.com states, “You told yourself you’d be a top-notch parent, but you may long for your old life sometimes, then feel guilty that you aren’t enjoying every second of parenthood. You’re not alone!” It’s normal to struggle as a new parent. If anxious or depressed, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your baby will thank you later.
Sources: Scholastic.com, WebMD.com, BellyBelly.com.au, DotComplicated.co