A New Year and a new beginning

Last night was the first Happy Babies session of 2016, sharing important information with parents to be about their baby. Information, more specifically about how their baby, in utero, has already started their emotional development.

To begin, there was little information about some of the background research – how we know that a baby’s emotional development starts in pregnancy and what mums and dads to be can do to keep this on track. We talked about the connection that  can be made with a baby in the womb and how this can be built on when they are in the room.

There is a wonderful DVD which illustrates this admirably, of a paediatrician and a mum vying for her new-born’s attention, of course the mum wins as her voice and their unique connection is preferred by the baby. The paediatrician then competes with the baby’s dad and dad wins too for the same reason. It is uplifting to see parents experiencing for the first time how important they are to their infant.

One of a baby’s first tasks is to feel calm yet also interested in the world around them. At least initially the world around them comprises mainly their parents and possibly close family members. When an infant seeks comfort from their parents they are reaching out to them and in turn parents have a window of opportunity to make their baby feel loved. This is an opportunity not to be missed as these interactions form connections in the baby’s brain enabling it to grow. We watched a film with some interesting graphics illustrating how these connections are made.

When these interactions are filled with love, that experience is hard-wired into the baby’s brain laying a strong positive foundation for their future happiness.  Harvard, that prestigious American University has some fabulous resources available for parents about child development free on the web. Indeed we also watched one of their short films. Hopefully we will be watching more of them in weeks to come as they are brief but interesting and informative.

However, perhaps the issue that interested the group most was ‘the look-away’. The look-away is a term for the time a baby needs to process all the sights, sounds and stimulation around her. He might have been happily playing with his parents one minute but then he suddenly averts his eyes, he literally looks away. We talked about how parents, wanting to do right can sometimes interpret this as the baby not enjoying what she was doing with them. Babies need lots of processing time as they are growing learning and developing so fast. So let them look away – they’ll be back as soon as they’ve got it all processed! They will then feel calm and ready for play again.

There were other signs we discussed that can help a parent to read their baby and know what their little one wants and needs. Small signals the baby gives tell us when it is appropriate to accelerate playtime and when to put the break on. There are so many signs from a new-born. Parents just need to know what they are looking for.  I can’t wait for next week!