Now this may sound funny, but like a super conscious mother, who wanted the best for her baby, I started lapping up every kind of information, available on net, during pregnancy. Right from foods for developing a healthy baby to wonder foods, which claimed to boost the IQ of the baby, I tried everything. It was as if I was searching for some recipe to create an Einstein. Seriously, now looking back I feel stupid for being so foolish.
Anyway, having said that, it didn’t stop me from eating right, but not with the desire of creating a baby of IQ 200, but simply to have a happy and healthy baby with proper organ functioning. I ate fruits, veggies, and proper amounts of fish for omega 6 and daily dose of walnuts to fuel the IQ theory. I don’t know if it actually worked, but it made me a little more brainer by resorting to practical solutions rather than silly theories.
From listening to calming music of Mozart and Beethoven (where I was literally lulled to sleep), to listening to mantras (yes, you can laugh), I tried my hand at many unique techniques to boost baby’s brain development. However, when I asked my mom, she laughed her heart out and simply told me to relax. How can I relax?? It was my baby! I had to make it intelligent and wise.
She nodded and told me to be simply happy! That’s it.
That sounded too simple and ineffective at that point, but I realized only later that it is the most effective tool for proper brain development, not just when the baby is inside and growing, but also when the baby is born and growing henceforth.
Yes, baby’s brain undergoes massive transformation and growth. in the first 5 years of life. In fact, a child’s brain, spanning from 0-3 years of age, undergoes brain transformation by leaps and bounds. This is in terms of producing millions of neural brain connections by every second. The genetic prototypes are always set during the fetal stage, but the proper programming or rather the connections between the neurons are established only through true life experiences, repetition of which make them stronger and everlasting.
At the time of birth, it is believed that a child is born with his total neuron capacity, but the connections get established post birth. The ability to form several neuron connections will depend on several factors including a child’s environment, including their experiences and their relationships with people around.
No wonder it’s said that babies should be exposed to a variety of activities, environment and play to stimulate different mental faculties and establish the connections in process. They should be allowed to explore by way of sight, touch, smell, taste and sound. And all that necessary will happen only when a baby is emotionally healthy and happy. Any kind of unhappiness around him, by way of stress, threat like scolding or spanking will simply affect the brain and curb its development.
Hence, the more a child stays healthy and happy, the more they play, observe, learn and boost the formation of neural connections.
To elaborate let me explain this aspect from the medical angle. There’s something called “Amygdala”, almond shaped section of nervous tissue, located on the temporal side of the brain. It’s a part of the limbic system within the brain that is solely responsible for emotions, memory and also the basic survival instincts. In fact, it is believed that certain emotions like fear etc. are stimulated by this alone. This section of the brain detects fear, sends signal to the brain and prepares the body to fight in emergency situations. . So, in short, this is what gets affected the most due to unhappiness or stress and in babies, all the more.
The more a child or a baby feels emotionally secure, the smaller (which is better) the size of the child’s amygdala will be. Children of women, who suffered post-partum depression, are said to have a larger size of amygdala. That’s why this calls for immediate help for such mothers.
Circling back to a child’s brain development and his happiness quo, let’s get onto a few more details here.
Attachment parenting or parenting with a lot of physical affection helps in the physical growth as well as in the emotional development of babies. The sense of security developed by babies as a result of meeting their signals and demands helps in making them feel safe, secure and happy. On the other hand, a caregiver or a parent, who remains inconsistent in caring for the baby or shows very little or no affection is likely to turn a child feeling “insecure”. It’s even said that if the first six months of a baby remain devoid of any emotional attachment, the baby’s amygdala turns emotionally “inert”, resulting in behavior similar to autism. Scary it is!
Attachment bonding is hence, a pre-requisite for brain development, especially the right side. The left part of the brain, which starts majorly developing at age 3, controls verbal and conceptual skills, while the development of the right brain, controlling non-verbal aspects like communication, intuition, empathy and sense of self, all develop right from birth.
Any guesses for the stimulant? Of course, unadulterated mother’s or any caregiver’s love, her hugs and kisses, her every form physical affection! Not to sound like a sexist, but men can also extend the same, if they want to!
Hence, it’s imperative that parents ensure that kids are loved, hugged and cuddled. There’s no antidote to physical affection and it helps in building emotional security, not to mention the happiness quo, in a child. And a secure child, will not feel apprehensive to test and try new boundaries. Hence, when allowed to venture out, allowed to test their world outside their comfort zone, such babies will have a solid foundation to help their brain grow and mature.
I’ve understood this basic truth and try to consciously make this crazy journey called “Motherhood”, a happy one. Although, on certain days, it’s a challenge to stay happy, when you are not feeling sane, yet a “hug” and a “kiss’ makes up for any bad day! Not to mention, these help in lifting the happiness quo in both of us, thereby charging our batteries, readying us for our next set of struggle!
Motherhood or rather parenting is a journey. Not every day is the same and hence, not every day you are sane with your child. It doesn’t matter as to what all you couldn’t do or missed out on in this journey, but what will matter is, how you made that up.
Read, get help, and talk to anybody, who will make this journey, a promising and a happy one for you and your child. After all, all this “gyaan” on brain development and IQ won’t make sense unless you are in your right sense of mind! So go out and figure out what makes you happy and make efforts to stay happy in this insane, yet not so impossible journey called “Parenting”!
After all, happy parents make happy and brainy kids!