10 Things You Don’t Know About Baby’s Brain *

  1. If it weren’t for the size limitations of a woman’s pelvis, babies would stay in the womb considerably longer. To fit through Mom’s exit door the newborn brain must be one-quarter the size of an adult’s.
  2. Baby’s brain has evolved to use the responses of caregivers to help it develop. Newborns are learning about hunger, loneliness, discomfort and fatigue – and what it feels like to have these relieved. Caregivers help this process along by promptly responding to baby’s needs.
  3. A premature baby born at 34 weeks will reach her peak crying point at around 12 weeks old, while a full-term baby, born at 40 weeks, will cry the most at around 6 weeks old.
  4. When babies imitate facial expressions it triggers the emotion in them as well. This may explain why parents tend to make exaggerated happy and sad faces at their little ones, making them easier to imitate. Baby talk is another response that is critical to infant development. Its musicality and exaggerated structure emphasizes critical language skills.
  5. After birth the human brain grows rapidly, more than doubling in size by the time the tot is sampling his first birthday cake. By kindergarten the brain has reached its full size, but it does not finish developing until kiddo is in his mid-20s.
  6. Baby brains have many more neuronal connections than brains of adults and their perception of reality is less focused. They are vaguely aware of pretty much everything. As babies mature their brains go through a “pruning” process, where neuronal networks are strategically fine-tuned by their experience. Creative people have retained some ability to think like an infant.
  7. The only thing we know that makes babies smarter is talking to them. Dialogue is best, where a parent vocalizes and mimics during the pauses of an infants’ babbling. Monkey see, monkey do.
  8. Babies divide up the world between things that respond to them and things that don’t, and things that don’t, don’t teach. A recording does not follow a baby’s cues, which is why infant DVDs such as Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby have been found to be ineffective. So throw out the flashcards and videos and play with your baby.
  9. Babies are hard of hearing, which may be why their crying doesn’t seem to bother them as much as it bothers us. Underdeveloped auditory pathways may explain why infants sleep peacefully in crowded areas or next to a roaring vacuum. For the same reason, constant music or television in the background make it harder for babies to distinguish the voices around them and pick up language.
  10. Studies show it really does take a village. Children do best when they have at least three adults who consistently send the message: Hey kid, I got you. Spending time with non-parental caregivers – a grandparent, a daycare teacher, a family friend – helps infants learn to read different facial expressions and expands their ability to understand the perspectives of others.
* Information from LiveScience.com


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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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