This complex system connecting digestion, gut maturation, and neurodevelopment has come online.
From day one, Baby’s sensory system is working across all 8 senses to lay a foundation for wellness and development. It’s hard work, but baby must learn to interpret and process all of the information coming at them— and respond appropriately. This process is known as sensory integration.
At the tail end of the fourth trimester, as those wild reflexes begin resolving, baby is gaining control over their own movements: objective evidence of your baby’s neurologic development being on track! This is a big moment worthy of a pat on the back. Also worth celebrating is the first real responsive smile. It’s a huge step forward in developing your connection with Baby (and toward experiencing flow).
In the bath, count baby’s toes while saying the number out loud as you touch each one. Add a dab of Our Shampoo and Bodywash foam (makes a nice lather without any nasties) to each toe as you go. Follow by labeling other body parts as you wash them, touching each one gently with your hand or washcloth. Describe what the cloth may feel like, or what the body part’s function is to add to the experience.
Another option is to let baby spend some time undressed and diaper-free on a soft blanket. Without clothes, baby can experience tactile, proprioceptive input (body awareness) in a richer way. When baby stretches on the floor, they are exploring how their body relates to the ground and start to finetune some of their wiggily movements to finesse their motor control.
When you engage more than one sense at a time, you help develop more meaningful connections in the baby's brain, so the learning occurs on a deeper level.
When baby cries, they are looking to accomplish two things:
1. Get you to pay attention to their distress.
2. Get comfort.
First, check the five states of wakefulness to cover the basics. Are they hungry? Are they tired? Do they need a diaper change?
Next, try some soothing techniques. Every baby may have their own preferences, but singing, gentle rocking or bouncing, fresh air, or a shushing noise are universally soothing to babies. Reminder: While sucking is incredibly soothing to a baby, it does not always signal hunger. Feeding them every time they cry can lead to issues with obesity and health in the future. Let them suck on a clean, dry finger or a pacifier if you prefer.
Baby relies on crying to communicate most of their needs, so it can be hard to figure out exactly what’s bothering them and how to soothe them. In the coming weeks, you may start to recognize your baby's cries and what they mean, but there may also be instances when it seems like there’s no obvious explanation for their distress.
While relaxing or laying with baby, hold a small mirror up to their face. While looking in the mirror with your baby, name the the different parts of their face as you point to them on your face and baby’s. See if you can catch eyes with your baby in the mirror. Depending on their age, they may even reach out to touch the “baby” in the mirror.
Mirror play is an engaging activity that strengthens visual tracking in young babies, and also helps to foster self-awareness, curiosity and social connection.
Your baby does not need toys to learn. At this age, baby is learning by exploring the world around them. They are learning from the consistency of your responses, from your loving touch, and from your voice and face; real life, real experiences, and genuine relationships—these provide better entertainment than any toy out there.
As they grow, try to avoid electronic or overly complicated toys. Rather, stick to simple toys that leave plenty of space for baby’s imagination and creativity. Household objects will soon become their best playmates, as will the discovery of their hands and feet. When a baby learns to play and explore following their own agenda, they learn new information in context. That is the best way for real learning to occur (as opposed to memorization). Toys that have a “right” way to play don’t allow exploration or creativity. Keep any play areas neat and decluttered if possible–a baby's environment should be calm and organized, not over-stimulating.
Yes on all three? Great! One or more No’s? Let’s talk about it.
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