When our child is born, their brain has far more neurons than we have as adults giving them an enormous capacity to learn and function optimally. Your child's environment is that creates the stimulus to get the neurons firing and wiring at their best.
Here are 10 ways you as a parent can encourage healthy brain development.
One of the best things we can do for our child is give them our time, energy and attention. Even when we are busy, take time to read, cuddle, play and connect.
2) Alternate Sides When Feeding
First and foremost, any time a newborn is breastfed, they are being nourished nutritionally and emotionally. A newborn has their clearest visual acuity at 20-25 cm, the exact distance between their mother's face and theirs when breastfeeding. Alternating sides when feeding also ensures that the baby's right-left brain development. Even if you are bottle-feeding, make sure to swap your baby from one arm to the other.
3) Consider Your Baby's Head Shape
If your child's head looks uneven or you notice flat areas, this can indicate restrictions between the skull and the soft layers that cover the brain and spinal cord. A healthy brain requires good movement of the skull and spine; when this movement is impaired, brain and nerve function are also impaired. It is best—whether your infant’s head is odd-shaped or not—to have your newborn’s skeletal system checked as early as possible by a chiropractor or osteopath.
4) Prioritize Tummy Time
Starting from 3 weeks of age and on, this simple act builds up their neck muscles and activates brainstem pathways which are critical for healthy brain development. Note: if your infant does not appear to like lying on their stomach, this could be an indication of spine or nerve irritation and it is best to have them checked by a chiropractor.
5) Give Your Baby Objects To Gaze At
It is good to start with black and white objects initially since newborns can only see in black and white. Babies love visual stimulation. We recommend different objects and shapes and varying distances.
6) Encourage Free Playtime
When possible, allow your child time to move and explore their new world and entertain themselves with a variety of objects. Every time a baby reaches out to touch something new, their neurological synapses connect, eventually building circuits that are strong enough to trigger the next developmental milestone. As your child grows older, tech them to do new stimulating activities like blowing bubbles, building with blocks, doing puzzles, counting beads, etc.
7) Have Your Baby's Nervous System
In order to make sure your baby's nervous system is functioning optimally, have them assessed by a pediatric chiropractor. Research shows that rapid growth of the entire brain occurs during the first year of life. The Journal of Neuroscience (2008) states that, although the first year of life may be a period of developmental vulnerability, it may also be a period in which therapeutic interventions would have the greatest positive effect.
8) Massage Your Baby
Massage provides wonderful stimulus and feedback to the brain. Massage is great for calming the nervous system, particularly if your child is upset or over-stimulated when it is time for sleep.
9) Make Sure Your Child Is Getting Plenty Of Sleep
Research indicates that sleep dramatically enhances changes in brain connections during the period of early development. Sleep enhances brain plasticity and other importance neurological development. Newborns can sleep up to 18 hours and it is normal for toddlers to sleep 12 hours. Setting a routine for dinner and bedtime makes sleep and life easier for everyone.
10) Be Active
From an early age, it is important to teach your child a range of physical activities so that they can learn to balance and coordinate their bodies. Activities like standing on one leg, hopping, skipping and walking on a beam or ledge are helpful for balance while spinning, swinging, ball games and cross crawl all provide wonderful brain/neurological feedback.