Baby Brain Development

I recently read an article entitled, “Want Success in School? Start with Babies!” by Dr. J. Ronald Lally. It is available only in print form in KAPPA DELAT PI’s Record.  Since I cannot provide a direct link to the article, I would like to share some highlights of the author’s words.

By age 3, an infant’s brain is already at 85% of the size it will be once he/she reaches adulthood.  With that being said, it’s only natural for one to believe that important learning and social structures should be put into place for the first few years of a baby’s life.

The stages of a baby/infant are broken down into 4 periods:

Brain Cell Creation (conception through delivery)

Beginning as early as conception, babies could be seriously affected as to how they will achieve later in life.  What the mother eats during pregnancy, how much stress is put upon the mother, drugs, exercise, etc. all play a factor in the developing of a baby’s brain.

Bonding (birth to 9 months)

Of course we all understand what bonding with our child means to us as parents. It is a complex definition but to simplify it, one could say it is to meet all of the needs of a baby and provide unconditional love.  These first 9 months are crucial in learning about relationships and communication.

Supported Exploration (7 to 15 months)

This is the time in which infants become a little more independent and start doing things on their own (in short-time bursts).  They are comfortable doing these actions because of the trusted connections they have made and the assurance they have received in the previous stage.  There is so much observation taking place during this time that they are developing a sense of self.

Self in Relation to Others (15 to 30 months)

Infants begin to become more expressive with their language, social behavior is learned, imitation from caregivers takes place, and confidence building all fit into this stage.  They are learning how they “fit in” to their surroundings and society. At the age of 2, most skills that are needed to succeed in school (“emotional/social, learning assumptions, and character traits”) have already been formed.

Dr. Lally provides recommendations (for both parents and educators) on how to guide babies to be successful in school. He believes prenatal health-care should be accessible to ALL families.

Paid parental leave for the first 6 – 9 months is another recommendation from Dr. Lally, along with having professionals regularly visit the home for the first 18 months of the child’s life.

He suggests that American child-care facilities should pay their caregivers a rate comparable to what K-12 educators receive. These workers are underpaid and provide such important care to these infants during a crucial time in the children’s brain development.  Stronger regulations should also be put into place at these schools.

Lastly, he writes that services should be available to parents for help with their child’s development (emotional, language, motor, etc.).

Last month, Dr. Lally was interviewed about his article in this podcast.

How do you feel about Dr. Lally’s recommendations? Are they realistic?

11 thoughts on “Baby Brain Development

  1. I think the recommendations are great…but not realistic. Where will the funding come from? I would absolutely love for these suggestions to come into action, but the real world requires real funding.

  2. i love this. there’s a book by anna murphy paul (a journalist/writer with an niche interest in health care and education) called “origins: how the first 9 months shape us.” i wrote about it here:

    http://cherbie.wordpress.com/category/readings/

    oops actually just wrote that i was gonna read it. didn’t write about how much i enjoyed it. duh!

    anyway, highly recommended. it’s along the same thread of this researcher’s article.

    having lived in 4 different countries now (US, Canada, Australia, and Singapore) it is so weird to me that the US is the only country that does not provide universal health care of some sort. not even for pre-natal care. i think this is so important because as the article pointed out, research has shown that babies are already very much affected by their ‘environment; as early as in the womb. if we can provide early support to parents and babies, it can prevent so much long term stress and eventual health/mental/social issues, i think.

    as for paid maternity leave – YES. again, i think the US is the only developed country that does not impose some form of paid maternity leave. because our current home base is australia (where we are permanent residents) i enjoy up to 4 months paid maternity leave from my employer and another 2 months semi-paid from the government. and legally, my employer has to give me another 6 months of unpaid leave. this is unheard of in the US. in singapore, my friends enjoy up to 4 months paid. in canada it’s almost a year (semi-paid, as i understand). before having kids, i thought the length of maternity leave is waaay too long but now, i FULLY understand why it’s so important to spend the first few months bonding with the kid (and also for me, recovering from childbirth mentally physically and emotionally!).

    so, yes, i fully agree with his recommendations. as for funding i don’t know how the US federal budget can’t accommodate this when most of the world has figured it out. (actually, i kinda do know, i’m in the midst of reading this book called “the healing of america” which talks about the US health care system…eye opening).

    • I’ve read about European countries and its paid maternity leaves with extra in-home help at no cost, but your post is the first I’ve heard about Australia and Singapore. How wonderful for you to have that much time off! And being paid for 6 months helps too. I think it’s fantastic and provides a real sense of community that your employer and government both pay for you to be home. It shows that they are investing in the future.

      Living in the US, I feel fortunate that I am able to take an extended unpaid maternity leave. My contract allows me for 2 years, unpaid. I was very grateful to my administrators and board for approving my request, as this is such an important time for my family. I know this is not the norm and that is why I appreciate my time home every morning I wake up. I am enjoying every day and treasuring each moment (even the tough ones).

      I’ve put Origins AND The Healing of America on my reading list! Thank you for all of your book recommendations 🙂 I can’t wait to talk about them with you (right now, I’m reading Bringing up Bébé).

  3. Sadly, I don’t think his recommendations are realistic at the moment but I would love to be proven wrong.
    Prenatal care is so important, sometimes even a lifesaver. It is scary how many women cannot afford it.
    Likewise, paid parental leave is essential for the sanity of the parents and the well being of the newborn. When I got pregnant, we were so disappointed to find out how limited our options were. Which led to me closing my office and my husband taking only a limited amount of time with reduced pay.
    Thanks for sharing, loved reading about the different stages.

  4. Prenatal care is imperative for fetal growth, and yes, the biggest thing a pregnant woman can do to benefit her child’s brain is to reduce stress.

    I also think babies benefit from an extended maternity leave, but sadly this is so hard to come by in this country. There needs to be better change so that women can take longer leaves, even unpaid, but still have job security.

    As far as paying caregivers more, I’m not sure how to go about that because usually that means that parents will end up paying more, and it turns into this crazy cycle where nothing is affordable anymore. Right now my aunt watches my toddler so we’re fortunate that even though we pay her, it’s lower than a regular nanny or a day care.

  5. I see Dr Lally’s recommendations as realistic, However, having professionals visit regularly for the first 18 mths is not realistic in many circles. These professionals limit their visits to the first two months after birth and that is it. There is always a “social tension” sort of between mother-in laws, mothers and the health professionals when they exceed or try to “interfere” in parental skills.

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