For me, the first year of a baby’s life is all about baby-led development.
A lot of people in the United States are not familiar with this neuro-developmental approach, though it is commonly practiced in Europe.
Movement Builds Brain
Your baby is born with more neurons than she will ever have again in life. However, those neurons are largely unconnected to each other. Sensory input and motor output is what builds connections in the brain, the spinal cord, and throughout the whole body. Your baby needs plenty of play time on tummy and back to develop his brain. In baby led development, the baby is never placed into a position they can’t get into on their own. This allows body balance and strength to develop, rather than poor compensatory mechanisms.
Primitive reflexes are the way the body moves before the brain’s neural networks are created. Your baby needs to be able to move to be able to develop voluntary movement. Avoid using mittens, swaddling, and using carrying or standing devices since these impede activation of primitive reflexes. Dr. Caroline Peterson will check your baby to be sure the primitive reflexes are being integrated properly.
You knew you wanted to breastfeed, but when do you add in solids? Everyone has a different idea. Food is about more than getting nutrition. It is also a sensory experience. In the beginning, the sensory experience of table food is most important. Dr. Caroline Peterson recommends baby-led weaning. Babies generally begin showing an interest in food around 6-7 months. Around this time, their digestive enzymes are changing and they are getting their first tooth. In baby-led weaning, pureed food is not baby’s first introduction, but rather soft, smashable foods your baby can grab and eventually bring toward mouth.
Babies need to be held. Harlow showed us long ago that touch is even more important than food for babies to thrive. Carriers and wraps are cultural adaptations that allow people to maintain control over their child, while completing work. Use these cultural adaptations judiciously. They fix the child in place and deprive the baby of movement. Movement builds the brain. Arms get tired when holding a baby, and the baby’s position must be changed, or the baby must be put down, or passed to another person. These are all good mechanisms that nature developed to ensure babies get the movement they need.
Movement Builds the Brain