A baby's brain begins to form three weeks after conception, according to the University of Maine. By the time he's born, a newborn has 100 billion neurons. Some already connect to others, like those that regulate breathing. By stimulating a newborn's brain development, you'll help him build connections that are essential to development, according to the University of Georgia.
While it may be tempting to watch television as you hold, feed or play with your newborn, HealthyChildren.org advises against it because TV doesn't offer sufficient brain stimulation. The site explains that images on screens aren't a good substitute for the stimuli that a newborn should receive in real life. For example, as a newborn develops three-dimensional vision, it's better for her to see an object in real life and be able to touch it than see a two-dimensional object on a screen. Interacting with an object in real life, like a ball, allows the newborn's brain to develop motor skills and make connections regarding the size, shape, color and feel of the ball. Furthermore, having the TV on in the background can hinder a baby's language development. HealthyChildren.org explains that people normally speak at a pace of about 940 words per hour, but when the TV is on it falls to 170 words per hour. Hearing more words promotes learning and better language skills. Being around someone who talks positively stimulates a newborn's brain because she gets to see facial expressions and body language and hear the individual's tone of voice.
Touch and Interact
It doesn't take much to stimulate a newborn's brain. My-Newborn-Baby-Care.com shares that touch and simple interactions nurture brain development. Look into a baby's eyes to develop and stimulate his memory. Pull out a mirror to promote self-awareness. Gently touch your newborn's fingers and knuckles to get him to open his hand. Then place a toy in it to help develop his motor skills. Make funny faces. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, newborns who are a few hours old have the ability to imitate some facial gestures. My-Newborn-Baby-Care.com recommends surprising a newborn on occasion by gently blowing on his face or tickling his toes.
Talk to Your Baby
When your newborn makes a sound, the University of Georgia encourages you to repeat it and to take the time to talk to her because the one-on-one interaction builds a positive bond and language skills. When you do respond to your baby's coos, give her a chance to respond to you. My-Newborn-Baby-Care.com shares that those pauses help newborns learn how conversations work. When you're around your newborn, talk to her often, don't be afraid to use baby talk and use her name to build name recognition. According to BabyZone.com, babies recognize and enjoy hearing the voice of people they know.
Stimulate the Senses
Everything in the world is new to newborns, so simple tasks are enough to stimulate a little one's brain. Read books aloud to help develop his language skills and give you time to bond. Hold your baby as you walk around the house so he gets a chance to look at different objects. My-Newborn-Baby-Care.com suggests doing stimulating actions like touching a baby's hand to a window, letting him take in the smells of cooking food and listening to new sounds, like bells chiming or birds singing.
- University of Maine: Children and Brain Development: What We Know About How Children Learn
- University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences: Building Baby’s Brain: The Basics
- HealthyChildren.org: Why to Avoid TV Before Age 2
- My-Newborn-Baby-Care.com: Infant Brain Development -- Activities to Stimulate and Nurture
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Newborn Infants Imitate Adult Facial Gestures
- BabyZone.com: Your Brilliant Baby in Week 4: Identifying Smells, Sounds and Tastes