Science of Infant Development
Babies after birth are still not completely "cooked" and neurological development is still continuing. Each new experience increases that development. When a baby is born, the brain weighs about two pounds. By the time a child is two years old, the brain might weigh about four pounds. This increase in weight comes from the millions and millions of new synapses created every time the baby attunes to a new voice, a new sight, a new taste, a new smell, a new word or any new sensation.
*** Read to your baby. Talk to your baby. Show your baby new sights. ***
Try this experiment. Put your hands out in front of you, back of hand to back of hand. Cross hands and clasp palms. Bring palms to chest and in front of face. Now have a friend point to a finger (don't let her touch it) and try to move it. Try several times being sure to include a little finger. Now have the friend touch a finger and move it. It's easier. You have essentially caused a cross-fire in your normal visual and neurological connections. This experience is analogous to your baby's confusion as the infant neurological system is refined through experience.
*** Messages stimulate nerve development. Touch your baby with loving and gentle strokes. ***
Communication goes on between the two sides of the brain. Your left brain controls the right side of your body and visa versa. New information is being researched now about which part of the brain controls what function. There is a mapping system that shows the general area of the brain used for hearing, for vision, and so forth. It is known that as a baby learns language, at first all parts of the brain are used indiscriminately, but through time, specific areas become language determined. One part of the brain is used for grammatical words: the, and, but; another part is used for naming: love, honey, running. As the left brain communication to the right brain becomes stronger, baby learns to control both sides of his body at the same time: baby learns to clap. All cultures seem to know instinctively that this is an important growth in brain function. A brain where the corpus callosum fails to provide this dual control is in serious trouble. Almost every culture has its own version of pat-a-cake.
*** Clap for your baby. Play pat-a-cake. ***
Creating a Joint
Hip socket development occurs after the baby is born. The joining of the leg and hip is called a ball and socket joint. The socket part at birth is soft cartilage. By the time the baby is a year old, this cartilage has hardened into bone. If a newborn's leg was put in a cast at birth, keeping the leg immobile, in one year's time, an artificial hip replacement would be needed to allow the leg to move normally. It is the legs' movement that creates the socket of the joint.
*** Let your baby wiggle. Put your baby on the floor on his stomach to encourage crawling. ***
Almost all babies have flat feet. In the same way your baby develops a hip joint through usage, the feet develop an arch as a baby learns to walk. In bare feet, watch how your toes grab the ground as you take a step. This gives you stability. When your baby is learning to walk, give him lots of chances to be bare footed. Put him in the softest shoes you can find. He will develop strong ankles and a good arch.
*** Do not use walkers! Let your baby's toes grab the ground. ***
When baby's brain is communicating right to left, your baby will be able to develop depth perception. Try this experiment. Cover one eye. Have a friend move her finger around about a foot and a half in front of you. Try to catch it. Now try with both eyes open. Much easier. You need both eyes working together to know where something is in space-depth perception.
*** Watch your baby's eyes. Do they follow you? Hand your baby toys and encourage him to reach for them. ***
When you hear someone talk, the sounds come through the outer ear. When you talk, you also hear your voice internally. The sounds travel through the bones in your head. That is why your voice sounds so odd when you hear it on a tape. About the fourth month, your baby will learn to triangulate. When sounds come from the left side, the baby will turn left. This is a complicated learning process that involves left brain/right brain communi cation to figure out that the sound is louder on the left side, therefore that is the direction to look.
*** Talk to your baby. Imitate your baby's sounds! ***
The middle ear changes the sound waves to mechanical movements with the little bones called the hammer, anvil and stirrup. Coming down from the middle ear is the Eustachian tube. For an infant, this tube is more parallel to the ear. This is why the tube becomes clogged so easily and can bring on an infection. As the child grows, the tube descends more and infections are less likely to occur.
*** When bottle feeding, always hold your baby's head at an angle to prevent the Eustachian tube from becoming infected. ***
The inner ear is where the sounds are translated to electrical impulses that go to the brain. This inner ear is shaped like a spiral shell. Low pitched sounds are "heard" on the outer rings, high sounds are heard in the inner rings. When a child has an ear infection, these spaces become turgid-filled with fluid, which interferes with the transfer of sound to the brain. If a child does not hear certain sounds due to constant ear infections, these sounds will be lost from the variety of sounds made. This shows up as an articulation problem and can require speech therapy.
*** Learn and use the home hearing check! ***
Another part of the inner ear is used for balance. Your baby will learn to sit up when the back muscles get strong enough and when the balance function of the inner ear is developed more fully.
*** Prop your baby into a sitting position with pillows. Help him back to upright position when he starts doing the slow lean. ***