Supporting your Baby's Development.
We’ve not been to any baby classes yet, will this affect my baby’s development?
I’ve been asked this constantly since the start of the pandemic. Thankfully the answer is no! Many new parents are tentatively emerging into a more social lifestyle but with baby classes still officially on hold for now many are worried about how to support their baby’s development or what the impact has been with their suspension.
So how can we reassure and suggest solutions to parents? By encouraging and explaining the benefits of developmental play.
Babies are attracted to faces; the configuration of two eyes, a nose and a mouth along with the contrasting colours are fascinating to them. It only takes a moment- a parent might be feeding or having a cuddle and look into their baby’s eyes. This action is the single most effective way of creating new connections in the developing brain.
Talking to babies is super important. Research tells us that using the narrative of everyday life is the most mentally enriching way, in other words say what you see for e.g. ‘I’m going to change your nappy’ this builds IQ and supports communication skills. When speaking to a little one, pause for a moment to create a space for baby to chat back, try to mimic their facial expressions and sounds, this helps with the development of empathy which in turn makes childhood friendships form more easily.
Singing helps develop social skills in babies. It doesn’t matter what your singing ability is; the difference from your normal voice stimulates baby’s brain. You can sing anything you like, nursery rhymes help with language development as they contain repetitive sounds. Research tells us that parents who sing to their baby on a regular basis feel more at ease with the transition to parenthood many months after the birth, so please encourage new parents to sing at home.
Skin to skin has multiple benefits! In the early weeks of parenthood, it’s lovely to lie in bed with your baby on your bare chest snuggled safely together. As your baby gets older you might want to move onto baby massage, presently there are plenty of classes or demonstrations online.
Physical development is supported through tummy time. Few babies like it but there are a couple of ways to make it a bit more interesting and less stressful. Encourage parents to try it every day, a variety of methods can be used; e.g. placing your baby face down across your thighs with their head peeping over the edge of your leg making it an effort to hold their head. Roll a muslin up like a swimming noodle and place this under baby’s chest with arms in front on the floor to give a better view. Place them on a birthing ball and don’t let go! Lie back propped up in bed, place baby on your chest and let them look up at you. Mix up the methods to activate as many upper body muscles as possible. Do it every day, aiming for gradual improvement as time goes on.
If a baby is sitting up independently begin to curate a treasure basket for them to play with, there are plenty of ideas online. That’s all that’s needed! If parents can be encouraged and supported to look into their baby’s eyes, talk and sing to them, have some skin to skin and practise tummy time their baby will have all the support they need with their social, emotional , cognitive and physical development. Parents please be reassured your baby has not missed out on anything. All they need is you!
Claire is an award-winning postnatal practitioner for a national charity and baby led gentle sleep consultant, all her work is baby led, gentle and evidence based.
To get more tips from Claire please find her on Instagram @baby.sleep.eat.help