Your baby’s first smile, first steps, and words – each of these milestones are so special and exciting for parents. The first couple of years of your infant’s life is crucial for cognitive and physical development. Your child will respond to sound, touch, taste, and sight during these years. Studies reveal that it’s during these years when babies develop bonds of love and trust with their parents.
However, many factors affect cognitive and physical development. Whether it’s a baby’s genes, environment, or care type, each one plays an important role.
As a parent, you can significantly influence and enhance your child’s development in many ways. Below are a few tips to help boost your baby’s health and cognitive development:
Get the Screenings and Checkups
It’s a sad reality that newborns are prone to birth injuries and congenital disabilities. Some common injuries include cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, and shoulder dystocia. While some congenital disabilities can be detected during pregnancy, others may not be apparent until the baby is born. And there are still others like autism that may not be diagnosed until later in childhood.
That’s why taking your baby for all of their screenings and checkups is exceptionally critical. These screenings may include hearing tests, blood tests, and vision tests.
These appointments allow your child’s doctor to check their development and identify potential problems early on. They will also urge you to pursue birth injury malpractice cases if your child was negligently injured during the birthing process.
Encourage Brain Development with Toys and Activities
Brain development doesn’t stop after your baby is born. It’s only just beginning.
You can help your baby’s brain development by providing them with stimulating toys and activities. These may include nesting blocks, shape sorters, and musical toys.
You can also encourage brain development by reading to your child daily, singing songs together, and playing simple games like peek-a-boo. You may not realize it, but you’re ultimately helping your child’s brain to grow every time you interact with them in these ways. An infant’s brain is a sponge, soaking up all the new information they’re exposed to – so be kind and playful around them.
Create a Safe and Stimulating Environment
Your baby’s environment plays a significant role in their development. You can create a safe and stimulating environment for your baby by childproofing your home and adding age-appropriate toys and furniture.
Also, avoid smoking and using harmful chemicals around your little one. These can all negatively impact your baby’s health and development. The CDC states that exposure to secondhand smoke can increase the chances of SIDS, respiratory infections, ear problems, and severe asthma in infants and children.
So, either quit or take the smoking outside. You must also pay special attention to choking hazards. Babies like putting things in their mouths, so keeping small objects out of reach is essential.
Breastfeed if You Can
We know there’s a lot of debate in the parenting world about whether breastfeeding moms are any better than formula-feeding moms. We are no one to judge. It’s true that formula has come a long way and can provide babies with the nutrients they need to grow and develop.
However, breastfeeding has been linked to many benefits for both babies and their mothers. These benefits include a lower risk of SIDS, obesity, and type II diabetes.
According to health experts, at least try to breastfeed for the first several months, if not for two years or more. It helps transfer antibodies from the mother to the baby and strengthens their bond. It’s okay if you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed. Do what you feel is right.
Provide the Right Food
At six months, a baby can eat almost everything except honey. Honey is strictly off-limits for babies under one because it can contain botulism spores.
Start with single-ingredient foods like pureed fruits, vegetables, and meats.
You can then incorporate more complex foods like mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, and pasta with sauce into your baby’s diet. Just be sure to avoid adding salt, sugar, or other seasonings to your baby’s food.
You should also introduce new foods gradually to see whether your baby has any allergies. Watch for allergic reactions, such as hives, wheezing, or vomiting. If you see any of these signs, stop feeding your baby the new food and call your doctor right away.
Nutrient-rich foods are essential for your baby’s health and development, so don’t skip them.
Get Your Baby Moving
No, we don’t mean putting them in a stroller and going for a run.
Babies need to move their bodies to help with their physical development. Tummy time is vital for assisting babies in developing the muscles in their neck and back.
You can use a playmat or blanket to put your child on their tummy. Let them move around and explore. They may not love it at first, but they’ll get used to it.
Once they can sit up independently, encourage them to crawl, pull themselves up, and walk. These are all critical milestones in your baby’s physical development. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that infants and toddlers should be encouraged to be physically active throughout the day for motor development.
So, put away the screen time and get those baby muscles moving.
Build Self-Esteem and Independence
Mental and emotional health is important too—just as much as physical health. You can help your baby develop a healthy sense of self-esteem through your gestures, words, and actions.
Praise your baby when they accomplish something, whether crawling for the first time or eating solid food. Use words like “good job” or “you did it.”
Encourage independence by giving your baby opportunities to do things on their own. For example, let them feed themselves with their fingers or a spoon. They may make a mess at first but will eventually learn to do things independently.
You can also help your baby cope with frustration and disappointment through mere facial expressions.
It’s important to note that cognitive and physical development happens at its own pace. So, don’t worry if your baby isn’t hitting all of them right on schedule. Just cherish the process and have fun with your little one. Talk to your child’s doctor if you’re concerned about their development. They can offer reassurance and guidance. And if you suspect wrongdoings during the birthing process, don’t hesitate to seek justice.