Inside Your Babys Brain

UNDER THE BONNET …

Your baby is only 5% of her adult size when she’s born – but her brain is 25-30% of the size of an adult brain. In fact, your baby's brain has as many brain cells than yours does!

The big difference between her brain and yours is that her brain cells aren’t connected up to each other - not yet. And, brain cells in isolation can't do very much. But when they are linked and working together, that's when the brain becomes powerful.

You could describe your baby's brain as being like a new computer that only has the operating system installed. This basic 'software' is sucking, swallowing and crying - plus some bodily functions. Everything else she has to learn!

It's during the first 3 years that the most important and on-going connections (neuro pathways) are created in your baby's brain. Everything that a person learns after these first three years sits on top of this foundation that is built during the first three years.

              

Your baby learns by the ways she is treated … how she is held, touched, talked to, played with, read to and adored. These things determine how her brain develops.

If she has consistent, positive experiences in these early years, she will become a confident, secure person. If she is neglected or has severe or consistently bad experiences, she will feel insecure and is more likely to have behaviour and learning problems later.

What is happening inside her brain is that each experience she has causes tiny electrical threads or ‘neuro pathways’ to grow out and connect to her other brain cells. These neuro pathways wire-up her brain. And this wiring is the foundation for her 'emotional intelligence' - or her ability to be resilient and able to cope with what life throws at her.

Giving your baby a hard time will not toughen him up. It will make him feel insecure and he will find anti-social ways of coping.

The neuro pathways that create his emotional intelligence are the pathways that are created by the most regular and consistent experiences your baby has. These experiences are all to do with you, your partner and any other people in your house.

If she has good things going on to her and around her, she will feel secure and is likely to become a well adjusted child. If she is ignored when she needs attention or has other bad experiences, she is likely to develop anti-social behaviour.

The positive (or negative) experiences your baby has during these first 3 years creates the foundation that will last for the rest of her life.

This is why YOU are so important to your baby!

Check out this cool page that explains how your baby's brain is developing at different ages.

What happens around your baby…

treating your baby well … helps their brain develop well

Your baby's reaction to the regular things that happen around him become hardwired in his brain. What he learns through repetition during his first 3 years is VERY important …

If he is fed when he is hungry, changed when he is dirty, cuddled and soothed when he is tired or lonely … your baby is learns …

  • there are solutions to problems
  • that unhappiness is not permanent
  • that broken things can be fixed
  • that he’s not alone and people will look after him
  • the world is manageable and a pretty good place

This baby becomes a child who learns self-control, who is interested in the world, enjoys learning and becomes a productive adult.

Neglecting your baby or treating her poorly … harms her

If your baby is neglected or left to cry when she is hungry, not changed when she is uncomfortable, not cuddled when she's unhappy, then she learns…

  • there are no solutions,
  • that things go wrong and don't come right
  • that no one cares about her and she is alone
  • to feel desperate and will act out of control
  • that the world is unsafe and frightening

This baby will either withdraw and become listless or she will cry a lot, be difficult to settle and not sleep well.

A person who consistenty had  bad experiences as baby is more likely to become a child who doesn’t get along well with other children, have behaviour problems and does poorly at school. As an adult she is more likely to have poor relationships and more likely to get into serious trouble.

What experiences your baby has and how she comes to experience life and the world is largely up to you, your partner and the other people around her in the house.

… if you father your baby with love, if you respect and she feels safe and protected - you give her a solid foundation that will last her whole life.

                       

What your baby doesn’t understand…

  Knowing that he is a separate individual dawns on a baby very slowly. At the beginning, he doesn’t understand where he ends and the world begins. This means that…

  • your new baby experiences you and his mother as part of him, he has no sense of 'himself' … he experiences everything as 'me'. For instance, he doesn’t understand that his foot is part of his body. But he also doesn't yet understand that your nose or even the sides of his cot are not part of him.
  • he experiences everything that goes on around him as though it’s happening to him.
  • if people are happy and loving around home – your baby shares those feelings.

The downside of baby being so sensitive is that if…

  • if people are angry and shouting at each other, your baby feels it is directed at him.
  • if there is unhappiness and emotional abuse in the house, your baby feels this as though he is the victim.
  • if he hears physical violence against his mum, dad, or other people in the house, he feels it as though it is happening to him.

Living around emotional or physical abuse or violence is traumatic for a baby. If it is extreme, or happens a lot, it can affect the wiring of your baby's brain.

Even though he is unlikely to remember specifically the bad things that happened before he was 3 years old, the 'wonky wiring' sticks with him and affects his personality. Feeling frightened or afraid because of what is going on around him or to him can affect him for the rest of his life like 'post traumatic stress syndrome' which is often suffered by survivors of violence, tragedies and war. 

 

The Up Side - is that this is all under your control. You have choices about how you behave and you can control what goes on around your child. You can provide a loving, safe environment for your baby.

 

contact@greatfathers.org.nz

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Your baby's brain
Crikey! Your own baby
Why babies cry
The Zombie Zone
Sex, Pregnancy and the Home Invasion
Your own Dad
Breastfeeding
Depression