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brain development : Smarter Baby
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Newborn Baby Stimulation


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December 16, 2008


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Your baby’s brain development is shaped by her genes—and her environment, interactions and experiences. Give her brain power a boost by engaging her in the world around her—talk to her, touch her, look at her. By stimulating every sense, you will encourage your baby to make the kind of associations that make learning possible.

Facts: Your baby’s brain triples in size from birth to her first birthday. She goes from being completely helpless at birth to walking, talking and eating solid foods by around 12 months. Regular sensory stimulation promotes her learning.

Significance: Think of your baby’s brain as a blank slate. What you expose her to is what she will learn.

Types: You can stimulate your baby in a variety of ways. Give her a change of scenery by moving her crib or bouncy seat. Keep her in the kitchen while you make dinner; it can fire up her visual and olfactory senses. Hold her close and sing to her; you’ll be creating a great bonding experience, and you’ll also be exposing your baby to language. Place her on her belly for some play time; she gets a different vantage point of her surroundings while strengthening her neck and head muscles.

Time Frame:
While brain development occurs all through life, most of it takes place in the first 3 years after birth. Make the most of your baby’s waking time by engaging her in the world around her.

Warnings:
Pick up on your baby’s cues to learn. The perfect time for one-on-one stimulation is when she’s quiet and alert. If she’s fussy, hungry or tired, wait for another time to engage her.

Resources
http://www.pregnancyandbaby.com: She Knows: Pregnancy and Baby
http://www.kidshealth.org: Kids Health for more ideas on how to stimulate your baby
————
Donna Christiano is an award-winning free-lance journalist who has written extensively on women’s and children’s health for many consumer magazines, including Woman’s Day, Parents, Weight Watchers and others. Donna has also served on the staffs of Glamour and Bride’s magazines. She tries to live a healthy and strong life in New Jersey with her husband and two children.


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Brain Development in Infants


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December 16, 2008


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Your baby is growing by leaps and bounds—and so is her brain. At birth your baby could breathe, kick, cry and suck. But by 3 months her brain development allows her to do so much more; she can babble, smile and turn toward your voice. By a year she may be able to walk and say a few words, and she has developed a strong attachment to you. And that’s just the beginning. Brain development goes on for life—but the most critical time is first 3 years of life.

Facts: The brain starts developing about 3 weeks after conception and is only partially developed at birth—coming in at only about one quarter of its adult size. While brain neurons and connections alter throughout life, most brain development takes place in early childhood.

Significance: An infant’s brain is like a sponge; it can absorb sights, sounds, tastes and smells and make connections based on those experiences. For example, when a baby hears the sound of his mother’s voice, he may coo with anticipation.

Considerations: Genes and environment play a big part in brain development. While genes are responsible for creating the cells and connectors in the brain, environment can influence how the brain responds to stimuli. For example, a baby who is regularly talked to, sung to or otherwise exposed to language may be more verbal at an earlier age than a baby who isn’t given that kind of stimulation.

Misconceptions: You can’t make a baby smarter. But you can make her more apt to learn by providing a warm, safe, nurturing environment.

Expert Insight: Good nutrition post-birth can play a crucial role in brain development. Babies need adequate amounts of protein, fat and iron in their diets for proper brain cell formation. Breast milk and formula provide fat, protein and calories. But some babies—especially breast-fed ones—may need an iron supplement.

Resources:
http://www.fcs.uga.edu: Better Brains for Babies
http://www.zerotothree.org: Zero to Three: Information on infant brain development
————
Donna Christiano is an award-winning free-lance journalist who has written extensively on women’s and children’s health for many consumer magazines, including Woman’s Day, Parents, Weight Watchers and others. Donna has also served on the staffs of Glamour and Bride’s magazines. She tries to live a healthy and strong life in New Jersey with her husband and two children.


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Important Foods for a Babys Brain Development


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December 16, 2008


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Your baby relies on you for just about everything—including proper nutrition. Since the brain is only a fraction of its size at birth (in fact, its size triples in the first year of life), what you choose to feed your infant can have a huge impact on how her brain grows, develops and works. While your baby’s pediatrician is your best source on nutritional guidelines for a growing infant, here is some food for thought.

List:
Breast Milk: Opt to breast-feed your baby if possible—the longer, the better. Breast milk contains the perfect balance of calories, carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Fortified infant formulas are good, but breast is still best. In a study published in the “Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal and Maternal,” babies who were breast-fed for at least 8 months had verbal IQ scores 6 points higher than nonbreast-fed infants.

Fats: The brain is about 60 percent fat, and the better, higher-quality fats you feed it, the better it will develop. Make sure your baby has a diet rich in fats like DHA and omega-3 fatty acids, found in breast milk, fortified formulas, meat, eggs, soy products and seafood. Your pediatrician can give you information on which fish to avoid, due to mercury content.

Complex Carbohydrates: Your baby’s brain will need energy to get up and running. Feed her complex carbohydrates—which release sugar slowly into the bloodstream—like whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables to keep her brain powered.

Iron: Iron is essential for carrying oxygen to the blood, where it then circulates to all parts of the body, including the brain. While babies are generally born with iron stores that last through the first 6 months of life, they’ll need to get iron from their diets or supplements after that. Iron-fortified baby cereals are a great way to get the nutrient into your baby as you introduce solid foods. Also look for iron in meats, eggs, leafy greens, tuna, salmon and tofu.

————
Donna Christiano is an award-winning free-lance journalist who has written extensively on women’s and children’s health for many consumer magazines, including Woman’s Day, Parents, Weight Watchers and others. Donna has also served on the staffs of Glamour and Bride’s magazines. She tries to live a healthy and strong life in New Jersey with her husband and two children.


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