Baby Brain Building Part 2: BONDING
Previously, we discussed how the building of a brighter baby brain begins way before birth. A positive and healthy prenatal environment is the best springboard for a smarter baby. But what we do for our babies once they enter the world is equally as significant for their long term success. Unfortunately, new parents can be overwhelmed with their new responsibilities and fall into a “Baby Maintenance Routine” and forget that these first few years are FORMATIVE in many ways!!! Some new parents may establish a set schedule and simply “Go through the motions” as they care for their newborn.
What a missed opportunity to impact your child for LIFE!!!
The first few years of life are CRITICAL for a baby! So many changes will occur during these early years that will affect how a child thinks and learns later in life. What they eat, how they are cared for, their environment, their daily activities, and most importantly – how they are loved and nurtured- Really matters for their future!
Now for my favorite part…Let’s talk Psychology!
Developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson, studied what he termed “Psycho-social” development throughout lifespan.
Erikson identified the first stage of life as most important for learning how to build TRUST. We all know how important Trust is for healthy adult relationships. Now can you imagine the critical role it plays when you are a newborn, in a strange new world and completely dependent on your primary caregivers?
Erikson stated that trust was established when a caregiver provides warm, responsive, predictable and nurturing care.
5 Ways to Build STRONGER Emotional Bonds
1: Smooth Talkin
When a baby cries, the caregiver should respond in a positive and nurturing way with a soothing voice.
“What’s the matter with my precious little one? Is something hurting you? Maybe you are just hungry or need a diaper change? Let’s see what this precious little baby wants today!”
Talking to your baby is one of the most important Brain Building Activities you can do. Early communication is all part of a baby’s language and intelligence foundation, AND also builds strong emotional bonds… so what are you waiting for??? Get to CHATTING!
2: Be FLEXIBLE
Some parents approach their parenting role by thinking, “I’m going to show my baby who is boss! I set the rules, I set the feeding times, I am in charge!!” They don’t respond to their baby’s needs, but instead set rigid eat/sleep schedules that may leave their babies crying themselves to sleep. What these parents don’t realize is that they are also leaving their babies feeling helpless and unable to control and trust their world.
If you have ever met someone who “receives” life passively and frequently “feels trapped” in bad situations, you’ve met someone who was probably the casualty of RIGID parenting. Don’t let your babies grow up like dandelions, at the mercy of the wind. Teach your baby that they have certain levels of control over their lives and increase their power as they grow. Teach them that their opinion matters and that they can direct their destinies!
3: Be RESPONSIVE
Your baby was born with ONE communication tool at birth: CRYING. This means you must respond to your baby when he/she cries. Ignoring the cries of an infant teaches her that she cannot control her environment and is helpless against her discomfort.
How would you feel if you repeatedly asked someone that you loved for help, and they ignored you??? EXACTLY!!! You would probably feel Helpless and Frustrated… not the best way to welcome your baby into the world.
Also- Get off your phone!!! I’ve seen many parents miss out on precious quality moments with their babies because they are on their dumb-phones (not so smart ha?). Although I haven’t seen much research yet, we don’t need a scholarly journal to tell us that ignoring a baby because you are preoccupied with Facebook, CANNOT possibly be good for their development!
4: Be extra TOUCHY
Another powerful way to build strong emotional bonds and stimulate the brain is to TOUCH your baby often. If our babies could talk, they would say… “Give me some SKIN Mama!” The Skin is the largest organ on the human body. Skin receptors are linked to our brain, therefore massaging and caressing your baby are great ways to stimulate your baby’s brain and build lasting attachment bonds. This is also one more reason to BREASTFEED!!!!
There is NO SPOILING of a newborn. You MUST be as responsive as possible in a positive and loving way. Remember that babies love human touch and interaction… so speak softly to them, make eye contact, say their name, and caress their skin. Some parents constantly keep their babies in their carriers, bouncers, or swaddled in blankets, all of which will keep them from getting the sensory stimulation they need. This can limit their cognitive, physical, and emotional development. SKIN-to-SKIN contact is essential… and don’t forget the tummy-time!
5: Finally, be PREDICTABLE
If you are dropping off baby at the sitters, TELL your baby, “Daddy is leaving and I will be back later”… YES, even if she screams when you hand her over to the sitter! Make sure you tell baby what is happening so she can learn to TRUST you. You want her to know that although daddy’s going Bye-bye for a while, he can be counted on to return. Prove yourself to be a reliable and dependable caregiver to teach your baby that the world can be trusted.
So many Americans struggle nowadays with anxiety, fear and trust issues… unfortunately much of it can be accounted for by our early experiences in life.
Erikson identified the lack of trust as MISTRUST.
Surely you don’t want your baby to enter the toddler years distrustful of the world around her! We must do everything to build confident babies that feel secure in their surroundings. Be extra careful to not pass on any of your own anxieties or fears onto your babies as they can be behaviorally contagious! Encourage your babies to explore, as you supervise their discoveries. Most importantly… cuddle with them, kiss them, and LOVE them incessantly.
Leave comments, feedback or success stories below!