Your baby’s brain wiring is not fully connected at birth. It is very active, changing and developing in response to what’s going on all around them. It is the day-to-day experiences—activities like playing, being read to, learning, and interacting and being responded to by people—that helps to develop your baby’s brain.
How well all the wiring gets set up—that is, how your baby’s brain develops—will affect her/his ability to learn language, solve problems, and do well in school. Later in life, it can affect her physical and emotional health and how she gets along with other people.
Relationships are crucial. Loving, consistent, positive relationships help build healthy brains and protect your baby’s brain from the negative effects of stress.
Even very young infants can experience stress when the places they live and play in feel unsafe, or are frightening. “Toxic” stress—which is much more serious than short-lived, everyday stress—is caused by persistent problems like extreme marital conflict, poverty, abuse, neglect, being exposed to violence, having a parent who misuses drugs or alcohol, or having a parent with an untreated mental illness. Toxic stress is harmful to your baby’s developing brain. It can lead to physical, learning and emotional problems in childhood, and these problems can carry on right into adulthood. If you’re concerned about the situation in your home, talk to your doctor or your baby’s doctor.
Your baby’s developing brain needs:
Responsive, nurturing, positive experiences
Your baby doesn’t need expensive toys
What can you do?
Respond to your baby.
Provide a safe and loving home for your baby.
Help your baby explore his surroundings, both inside and out.
Get regular health care for your baby.
Develop community connections.
Choose quality child care. When you need to be away from you baby, make sure you leave your baby with a caregiver who will care for your baby like you do. Choose someone you trust, who will respond to your baby’s emotional needs, and provide a safe and healthy environment with opportunities to learn and grow.
Reach out if you need help. If you feel stressed, overwhelmed, depressed or need some support caring for your baby, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.