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Child Development : Smarter Baby
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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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Infant Milestones


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December 16, 2008


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Your baby’s first year of life is a remarkable journey of development—physical, visual, verbal and emotional. She enters the world barely knowing how to suck, sleep and cry. Yet by the time her first birthday rolls around, chances are she’s crawling—maybe even walking—chomping away at finger foods and not just recognizing her caregivers but even calling them by name. While all babies progress at different rates, here are some milestones worth mentioning.

By 3 Months of Age: Baby holds a rattle and shakes it, follows moving objects with eyes (also called “tracking”), smiles and imitates others’ facial expressions and holds chest and upper body up with arms when resting on belly.

By 6 Months of Age: Baby rolls from belly to back, moves objects from one hand to the other, sits with support, laughs and plays peek-a-boo.

By 9 Months of Age: Baby gets fist to mouth, responds to her name, possibly understands simple commands like “No” and stands while holding onto something for support.

By 1 Year Old: Baby crawls, walks by holding on and perhaps even takes a few steps unassisted, puts objects in and takes them out of a container, grasps small objects with forefinger and thumb (aka the pincer grip), communicates by shaking head for yes or no and pointing at objects he wants, responds to simple verbal commands like “Stop,” eats finger food unassisted and starts to develop a preference for particular caregivers—such as his parents over his grandparents.
Resources

http://www.aap.org: American Academy of Pediatricians for more on childhood milestones and 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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Baby Toys for a 6-Month-Old


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December 16, 2008


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By the time babies reach the age of 6 months, they are ready to develop skills beyond listening, crying and sleeping. Infant development toys can teach these babies to use basic motor skills, increase communication abilities and improve hand-eye coordination as they learn to balance and touch different objects. Colorful toys with different textures and puzzle games are among the most appropriate toys for a 6-month-old. You’ll need toys that stimulate all the senses and encourage your baby to play for extended periods. Here are a few ideas to add to your 6-month-old’s toy chest.

Colorful Mobile: Mobiles are a must for newborns and infants at every stage of development because they simultaneously provide mental and sensory stimulation. Mobiles made with simple, bold images can help babies to distinguish between different shapes and improve their vision skills. Babies love to watch patterns and colors, so this toy can keep them occupied for a long time.

Caterpillar—Plush or on Wheels:
The classic caterpillar toy is a longtime favorite for toddlers and young children and gives your 6-month-old a chance to play with different noises, buttons and textures. A colorful plush caterpillar designed with Velcro straps and shoelaces will help babies develop important motor skills, while the caterpillar on wheels can help them develop hand-eye coordination and navigation skills as they begin to move on their own.

Water Mat: Water mats are typically filled with gel-like substances, swirling toys, glitter and other objects that may keep your 6-month-old mesmerized for hours. Water mats can help babies distinguish between different shapes and colors while helping them develop their tactual skills as they learn to press and push certain areas of the mat to create different effects.

Bottle Sets: From soda bottles to shampoo and bath collections, a set of different-sized bottles can develop your baby’s matching skills and improve manual dexterity. Give your baby large, smooth bottles so that she can develop her natural grip and become comfortable with holding and carrying objects. Remove the lids and thoroughly clean and rinse the bottles before giving them to your baby.

Plush Picnic Basket and Food Sets: Toys designed to imitate food and other everyday objects can help babies become familiar and comfortable with the world around them, and plush picnic baskets filled with imitation food and picnic supplies are great toys to start with. Your baby can learn to distinguish between different shapes, textures and colors while engaging in creative play.
————
Sabah Karimi is an experienced freelance writer who enjoys writing about lifestyle, parenting, and childhood education topics. Sabah runs a web copywriting and marketing consultancy business in Orlando, Florida.


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What to Read to Make a Baby Smart


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December 16, 2008


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It’s no secret that reading to your baby is good for her. Reading early on fosters a love of books and stimulates early language development and the beginnings of speech. Reading time becomes a special bonding experience, and babies enjoy the close time with their parents. But what do you read to make your baby smart? Babies have different needs as they grow.

Birth to 3 Months—Anything Goes: When reading to an infant before the age of 3 months, it doesn’t matter what you read! Read the “Wall Street Journal” or “People” magazine—your baby won’t care. Babies not able to follow the plot or action in a book. They are simply listening to your cadence and the rhythm of your voice and enjoying being close.

Board Books: By 4 months of age, your baby will begin to reach for and grasp objects—including books! Use board books with repetitive language structure and bright, meaningful illustrations and pictures. Babies can feel free to put their hands and mouths on these books.

Nursery Rhymes, Melodies and Repetition:
As babies grow, they become more responsive to the sounds of language. Reading books with interesting rhythms, melodies and repetition and patterned language are just right for them. Babies love familiar words, and books with phrases that repeat will delight them. Babies are also becoming attuned to facial expressions and features and love if you “act out” your stories with voice inflections and expressions. Young babies also love to see objects they encounter in their daily lives—teddy bears, ducks, beds and dogs are all favorites. Nursery rhymes are great starters since they incorporate all of these ideas.

Baby’s Favorites:
As your baby grows, you may find he picks a few favorites. Read them—again and again! Using the same voice each time you read the familiar words will provide the repetition your baby craves. Babies learn from repetition, so while you may be bored, your baby is learning and soaking it all in.

Your Favorites:
Read some of your old favorites. What’s most important at this stage is exposure to books, language, words and the special time that comes from reading together. By the time your baby reaches 12 months of age, she may begin to turn pages for you, point out her favorite objects and pictures and even imitate sounds and expressions you’ve made along the way. What is really important is that you’re reading—not necessarily what you’re reading.
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Lara Alspaugh is a freelance writer living in Michigan. She is a Registered Nurse and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from Michigan State University. Her writing has been found in parenting and fitness magazines nationwide and the Internet, addressing health and fitness as well as wellness concerns of families.


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Pregnancy Diet Tips for a Developing Baby


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December 16, 2008


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Overview
When you’re pregnant, your baby’s sole source of nourishment is you. What you eat dramatically impacts his growth, weight, brain and organ development. While you need about 300 extra calories a day to help sustain your pregnancy (more if you’re expecting multiples), don’t use them up on junk food. Make the most of every morsel so you and your baby can thrive.
List
Protein: To foster your baby’s cell growth and blood supply, eat lean cuts of red meat or poultry, eggs, peanut butter and beans.
Carbohydrates: Found primarily in starchy foods like breads, pastas, cereals and potatoes as well as fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates give both you and your baby energy. Many are also fortified with folic acid, a vitamin that helps prevent certain devastating birth defects, like spina bifida. Your obstetrician may recommend a folic acid supplement.
Calcium: You know calcium is important to keep your teeth and bones healthy. The same is true for your developing baby. Calcium also helps your baby’s nerves and muscles form. Yogurt, milk, cheese, spinach, salmon and sardines (munch on the bones, too); all are all good sources of the mineral. Look for calcium-fortified foods, including juices, breads and waffles.
Iron: This vital nutrient helps your baby develop his red blood cells. Iron-rich foods include red meats, spinach, fortified cereals and breads.
Vitamins A Through D: Vitamin A, found in carrots and other orange-colored fruits and vegetables, is important for healthy skin and eye development. Vitamin C—found in citrus fruits, tomatoes and fortified juices—helps build teeth and gums. The B vitamins, such as B6 and B12, are important for the formation of red blood cells and are found in meats, fish and some grains. Vitamin D—available in fortified milk, dairy products and grains—helps your baby absorb calcium.
Fat: Go ahead, bite into a big juicy steak washed down with a glass of whole milk. Fat gives you and your baby energy. Just don’t overdo; keep fat intake to about 30 percent of your daily calories.
Resources
http://www.kidshealth.org: Kids Health for more healthy tips on what to eat when you’re pregnant

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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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The Importance of Nutrition in a Babys Intelligence


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December 16, 2008


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It’s a no-brainer: your baby’s body—from her head to her toes—is fueled by the food you put in it. Give her brain development a head start by offering the kind of healthy foods she needs to get and stay smart.
Facts: In the first few months of life, your baby will subsist on milk, be it breast milk or formula. So giving him the most nutritious milk available is key. If you’re breast-feeding, make sure your diet is rich in proteins (for example, lean meats, milk and eggs), essential fatty acids (like omega-3s, found in salmon and fortified eggs), iron (good sources are meats and iron-fortified cereals) and carbohydrates, like whole grains. If you’re formula-feeding your baby, choose an iron-fortified one. Once he’s on solid foods, look for iron-fortified baby cereals and baby foods with pureed meats, vegetables and fruits. Low-iron diets in kids have been associated with slower learning.
Time Frame: Most of your baby’s brain development takes place in the first 3 years of her life. While good nutrition will be important her whole life, the early years are an especially critical time.
Theories/Speculation: In terms of nutritional value, breast milk is considered optimal to formula. Breast milk naturally contains the essential fatty acids DHA and ARA—important for brain development. In one study published in the “Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal and Maternal,” children breast-fed for 8 months or longer scored 6 points higher on verbal IQ tests than those who weren’t breast-fed.
Misconceptions: While you may prefer to feed your baby organic baby foods to reduce his exposure to pesticides and chemical additives, be aware that the American Academy of Pediatrics has not found organic baby food to be better for babies than regular baby food.
Resources
http://www.pregnancyandbaby.com: She Knows: Pregnancy and Baby for more information on nutrition and its relationship to intelligence
http://www.cfsan.fda.gov: Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
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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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