Don’t wait to start listening!

[Womb into toddlerhood…]  Listening to your baby is very important.  We ‘listen’ to them whilst they are still in the womb – noticing what they are up to and wondering about them.  Studies have shown that it really helps a baby to grow well if we are keeping them in our ‘conscious’ thoughts.

Don’t wait to start listening once they are born!  Whilst it may seem a long time before they will be able to talk, they are unknowingly communicating to you from the very first scream.

hayden_cry

Newborn/baby

Some of the ways a newborn might communicate to you are:

  • looking towards you – they are noticing you either through smell, sound, vision or just by touch.  You can communicate back by talking, getting into their sight or by touching or holding them.  Touch is so important in growing a baby and helping them to form good attachments that it may not be enough to simply talk to them from a distance or be in their line of sight.  They may need to be in your arms (yes for the 14th hour that day…!).
  • vocalising – through goos/gaas or snuffles or crying.  Any use of the vocal cords is certainly meaning one thing, ‘I have something to say’!
  • rooting around for some milk – either on you or someone else.  Obviously one action to take here!
  • smiling – once they do, you know they really are starting to communicate. See post A Smile is Just the Beginning

The more responsive you are to your baby, the quicker you are teaching their brain what communication is all about – ‘you communicate through some form, I will be listening and respond’.

Although they might be in your arms, a baby may still cry or even scream.  As long as you are there to say ‘I’m here, you can let it all out now’ (and trying to work out what might be wrong at the same time – nappy, milk, bed etc), you are doing the best thing for your baby.  See post Is It Okay to Ssshh Your Baby?

Toddler

The listening keeps continuing once your baby becomes older.  Don’t forget to ‘listen’ to their actions as before they can talk, this is all that they have.  Teaching your baby a few signs is also a great way to help them to become excellent communicators and will fill in the gaps whilst they are getting their mouth around words!  See post

Do I get on this baby sign bandwagon or not?…

When you are listening to someone, you don’t ignore them.  This goes with your little one.  By the time they are a toddler and attempting to communicate (through actions or words), always give your best shot to understand them.  And don’t ignore anything!  For example, your toddler might be pointing at some food on the bench, right before dinner.  Tell them ‘no crackers, wait for dinner’ (signing ‘no’ and ‘wait’ can be useful to help them understand) and then distract!  It could be easy to ignore them or pretend you didn’t understand but it doesn’t help them to learn or teach them that you are interested in their attempts at communicating.  At least they know they are being understood!  AND they are learning at the same time (why they can’t eat crackers right now).

It could be easy to ignore the toddler trying to point to the swings outside on a rainy day, or you could say ‘swings? no swings…raining’ and then distract!!

What did your baby communicate to you today?

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A smile is just the beginning

Don't stop smiling!!

Don’t stop smiling!!

A child’s first smile happens, on average, about six weeks after they are born and can certainly help to make up for the sleepless nights!  It is a very important milestone as it is the beginning of social interaction. 🙂  At first, it is more like a reflex but between six weeks and four months, they will certainly be smiling just to see a familiar face!

Did you know smiling AT your baby literally grows their ‘social brain’ (prefrontal cortex)?  This is the most important thing you can do to start growing your child’s emotional intelligence.  Your baby has been hard-wired to look at faces which you will no doubt notice when you see them paying good attention to you!  And this of course, is how your baby’s head starts to change shape, as the brain grows.

For anyone who wants to know exactly HOW smiling affects the brain growth, it involves:

  • the baby seeing a smile and their heart rate increasing
  • a ‘beta-endorphin’ (or feel-good hormone) is released into circulation, and into the orbitofrontal region (part of prefrontal cortex)
  • the beta-endorphin helps neurons to grow
  • dopamine is also released at the same time which also encourages neuronal growth through uptake of glucose

If you’re interested in more about the very specifics of how early interactions shape a baby’s brain (and it is pretty scientific, so you’ll have to be very keen!), seek out ‘Why Love Matters’ by Sue Gerhardt.

More about milestones for newborns to preschoolers coming up, also featuring more on our facebook page – I raise my kids.