How To Improve Brain Development In Infants
Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality health coverage, explores various strategies and activities to nurture young minds.
“The first few years of a child’s life are critical for brain development. During this time, their brain undergoes rapid growth, forming countless connections that will shape their cognitive, emotional, and social development,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.
“As parents and caregivers, there are numerous ways we can help improve brain development in infants and set the stage for lifelong learning.”
Early and Frequent Interaction
Early and frequent interaction is one of the most fundamental ways to promote brain development in infants.
From the moment your baby is born, make eye contact and maintain it during feedings, nappy changes, and playtime. This simple act helps strengthen the bond between you and your baby and encourages their visual development.
Talk to your baby, even if they can’t respond with words. Narrate your day, describe what you’re doing, and sing songs. This helps build their vocabulary and understanding of language.
Pay attention to your baby’s cues, such as crying, cooing, or facial expressions. Responding promptly to their needs builds trust and helps them feel secure.
Skin-to-skin contact, known as kangaroo care, is essential for infants’ brain development and emotional well-being. Holding your baby close to your skin provides comfort and warmth, regulates body temperature, and reduces stress. It also strengthens the parent-infant bond, crucial for healthy brain development.
Breast milk is known for its incredible nutritional and developmental benefits. Breastfeeding provides essential nutrients, antibodies, and growth factors that support brain development. The act of breastfeeding also promotes bonding between mother and child.
Tummy time is essential for strengthening an infant’s neck and upper body muscles. It also allows babies to explore their surroundings from a different perspective, enhancing their sensory and motor development. Gradually increasing tummy time as your baby grows helps them develop the muscles needed for crawling and eventually walking.
Offer a Stimulating Environment
Creating a stimulating environment for your infant can significantly benefit their brain development. Here are some ideas:
- Age-Appropriate Toys: Provide toys that are safe and suitable for their age. Toys with different textures, colours, and shapes encourage sensory exploration.
- Books: Even before they can understand words, reading to your baby stimulates their cognitive development and introduces them to the world of language.
- Mobiles and Visual Stimulation: Hang colourful, visually stimulating mobiles above their crib or play area. These can capture their attention and promote visual tracking.
Infants are naturally curious and eager to explore their environment. Allow your baby to touch, feel, and examine objects within safe limits. Supervised exploration helps build cognitive skills and fine motor control.
Music and Rhythms
Music has a profound impact on brain development. Play soothing music or lullabies to help calm your baby and introduce rhythmic play with instruments like shakers or tambourines.
Regular Sleep Schedule
Consistent sleep patterns are crucial for brain development in infants. Ensure your baby gets enough sleep by establishing a regular bedtime routine.
Newborns typically require 16 to 18 hours of sleep per day, while infants generally need 12 to 16 hours daily, including their naps. Toddlers should aim for 11 to 14 hours of sleep, preschool-aged children require about 10 to 13 hours, and elementary school-aged children should aim for 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night. A well-rested baby is more alert and ready to learn during wakeful hours.
Baby Sign Language
Baby sign language is a valuable tool for improving communication with your infant before they can speak. Simple signs like ‘more’, ‘eat’, and ‘milk’ allow your baby to express their needs, reducing frustration and enhancing early language development.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
If you’ve started introducing solid foods, ensure your baby’s diet is rich in nutrients essential for brain development. Their diet should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and healthy fats.
Limit Screen Time
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding screen time for children under 18 months and limiting it for older children. Excessive screen time can interfere with physical, social, and cognitive development, so it’s best to prioritise hands-on activities and face-to-face interactions.
Create a Safe and Loving Environment
A secure and loving environment is the cornerstone of healthy brain development. Ensure your baby feels safe, loved, and protected. Be responsive to their needs, provide affection, and create a stable home life.
Explore Outdoor Environments
Spending time outdoors exposes your baby to new sights, sounds, and sensations. Fresh air and natural surroundings stimulate their senses and support cognitive development. Remember to protect them from the sun and dress them appropriately for the weather.
Engage in Play
Play is an essential avenue for learning in infancy. Simple games like peek-a-boo, tickling, and imitating facial expressions can provide hours of entertainment while promoting social and emotional development.
Be Patient and Responsive
Finally, remember that every baby develops at their own pace. Be patient and sensitive to their needs and create a loving environment where they feel loved.
About Affinity Health
Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading health coverage provider, offering you a range of options at affordable rates, including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, budget, and lifestyle. Our healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.