As brand new beings in the world, babies are constantly growing, learning, and changing. Their mood is always different, as one day everything seems to make them cry and the next, they can't stop smiling and cooing. At the very least, a baby's behavior can be confusing and complicated for parents. The science behind what goes on in a baby's brain and why they act the way they do, however, can help you understand their behavior a little more. Plus it's endlessly fascinating (and comforting, to be honest).
Because basic cognitive and general development are taking place in your baby's brain are at the early stages, a lot of how your baby reacts is simply instinctual. Their behavior can be seen as a reaction of their brains trying to learn and mature, too. And keep in mind that no two babies are going to progress at the exact same rate, so there's no need to go comparing your little one's behavior to that of your best friend's bundle of joy.
Once you have a better idea of what's actually going on in your babe's brain, it could help you be more accepting of the behavior that might've had you pulling your hair out before. And honestly, they'll grow out of this stage before you know it.
Pediatrician (and author of The Toddler Brain: Nurture The Skills Today That Will Shape Your Child's Tomorrow) Dr. Laura A. Jana explains to Romper that while your baby's brain is incredibly malleable at first, they get less pliable and harder to shape over time. The things that babies experience as they grow help to mold their developing brain. You can make the most dramatic difference on shaping your little one's development in their earliest years, according to Dr. Jana.
2. Emotion Sensors
In her Tedx Chandigarh Talk, Dr. Jana also shared that from a very young age, infants can sense your emotions (before even being able to talk or walk), and in doing so, she compared the baby’s brain to an emotional sensor. What’s even more inspiring is that as young as 9 months old, babies begin to show signs of empathy, which is more advanced than a lot of actual adults I know if you ask me.
3. Your Home's Electrical Wiring
Dr. Jana states that “it is during the first five years that we have a unique opportunity to more intentionally build babies brains and to assemble this toolkit of skills.” She goes on to use the analogy of wiring a house. Although it is possible to rewire an older house, it takes a longer amount of time, it's more expensive, and it doesn’t turn out as good. But adults are able to be the architects of babies’ brains before they’ve fully molded. Which is sort of like getting the opportunity to wire a home as you're building it, if you will.
4. Restless Leg Syndrome
If you’ve been kept up late at night by restless legs, you know very well what I’m talking about. The funny thing is that you’re probably kept up now by your bundle of restless joy. But there’s actually a really relieving and positive reason why. “Physical and intellectual restlessness go hand in hand,” and thus Dr. Jana shares that “wiggling” is actually a skill within your little one’s brain. Babies (and toddlers and children in general) are actively trying to enhance their ability to think, grow and learn. And what we view as restlessness – or wiggling – is part of that process.
5. A Game Of Tennis
In forming strong brain architecture, Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child shared that the foundation for this development is something known as “serve and return interaction with adults.” It’s basically a developmental game that allows babies to instinctively “serve” with babbling, facial expressions and movements. Adults then return the serve by responding. This interaction forms the foundation of the brain upon which future development is built.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.