What Parents Can Do – Birth to 6 Months

Whether you are breast-feeding or bottle-feeding your baby, changing diapers, giving a bath, or softly singing as you rock your baby to sleep, know that this is a special time!

These everyday moments, these simple loving encounters, are providing essential nourishment. Just as their bodies need food to grow, science now tells us that the positive emotional, physical, and intellectual experiences that babies have in the earliest years are equally necessary for the growth of a healthy brain.  Here are some ways that you can enhance your baby’s brain development:

Hug and cuddle your baby.  Make feeding time a special time.  Being held and cuddled frequently is extremely important in the building of baby’s sense of self-worth and will encourage them to try new things.

Hold your baby when feeding. The baby’s vision is most clear at about 10 inches–the distance between your eyes and hers when feeding.

Providing stimulation for a baby’s vision is very important.  Expose babies to bright colored pictures, moving objects, and toys.  Hang mobiles over the crib and play area.  Provide crib gyms, and objects for them to grab at or kick.

Talk and sing to your baby during bath, feeding, and play time. When your baby makes a sound, repeat it.  Smile and talk about the things you’re doing together.  Hearing your voice helps your baby begin to learn language.

Read aloud to your child.  Babies enjoy cuddling on your lap, looking at colorful picture books, and hearing the rhythm of your voice. Introduce cardboard or washable cloth books with brightly colored pictures.  At this point, your baby might enjoy chewing the books more than being read to!

Provide an environment rich with sound.  Help infants learn to identify and name such things as a vacuum cleaner, radio, clock, tea kettle, or doorbell.

Play music during the day.  Expose your baby to many different musical selections of various styles. If you play an instrument, practice when your baby is nearby. But keep the volume moderate.

Provide interesting objects for infants to feel, touch, mouth, and explore.  Keep easy-to-swallow objects out of infant’s reach.

Play peek-a-boo.  It teaches that you come back when you go away.

Respond to your baby’s needs and do not worry about spoiling your child at this stage.

Have your baby’s hearing checked.   Babies with hearing problems don’t get the language experience they need. If your baby has a hearing loss, he or she may need a specialist’s help. The earlier hearing problems are identified and corrected, the better.

And remember that brain development begins before birth. Nutrition makes a big difference in brain development even before the baby is born. Women who are pregnant should eat nutritious foods, avoid alcohol and other drugs, and have regular prenatal care to help ensure that their babies are born healthy.