Your baby’s brain

It is really fascinating how each human being are different. Everyone has their own way of doing and thinking. This all to thank to your brain. The brain is the fastest growing organ and never sleeps. Lets explore how the baby’s brain develop…

The baby  brain

Before Birth

Six months into pregnancy the womb is a place of significant learning. Newborns recognise music and voices they heard as a fetus. Newborns have the best possible chance of coming into the world with a healthy brain.

The brain is so sensitive to its environment that even identical twins have visible differences in brain structure by the time they’re born. These are caused by the minute differences in nutrients and sensory stimuli experienced by each fetus.

7 Weeks
after conception the brain’s main structures are visible. The primitive structures at the base of the human brain develop first.

14 Weeks
The fetus responds to pricking but doesn’t feel pain; this is just a reflex. The thinking brain is only an unconnected mass of cells.

24 Weeks
The brain is sufficiently wired for the fetus to hear, smell, taste and blink when a bright light is shone on the mother’s abdomen.

FACT: A fetus’ brain produces twice as many neurons as it will eventually need. Not a bad safety margin! Most of the excess neurons are shed in the womb.

Birth and beyond

Your baby’s brain contains as many nerve cells (neurons) as it will have as an adult but has relatively few connections (synapses) between them.

Sadly, most of these cells will not be replaced if they die. Exceptions include the cells involved in smell and taste in the olfactory nerve which are continually replaced throughout life.

On the day they’re born, babies can recognise their mother’s face, voice and smell. Your little Einstein! To do so a baby uses structures in the more primitive core of its brain that matured in the womb. After a few hours a baby can mimic facial expressions. Yes, it brings tears of happiness to your eyes, but this is just a reflex and takes on meaning only once the cortex develops.

Due to chaotic connections between neurons and jumbled pathways a newborn’s experience of the world is very different from our own. Young babies display simple emotional reactions, and although they’re not conscious of their emotions, these experiences may be stored in a primitive part of the brain called the amygdala, one of the first to function.

First Year

The brain is the fastest growing organ in the body. The forest of connections is soon pruned into a more efficient network. As the brain gradually discovers which connections deliver focused impressions, some cells die and some links between neurons are severed.

Meanwhile your little genius is experimenting by banging objects, for example, and learning to interpret sensations in a way that makes sense of his world. This explains why suddenly at six months, kids develop “stranger anxiety”; they now see the world at a more conscious level.

At about eight months babies know that when a toy is hidden under a blanket, the toy still lies beneath it. When adults play peek-a-boo babies recognise and understand simple spatial relationships.

This happens because the outer part of the brain becomes active. The frontal lobes also become active during the first year so baby starts to make simple decisions such as choosing between two toys.

Motor-skill development starts shortly after birth with the larger muscles (such as the neck, arms and legs) and progresses to increasingly smaller muscles (such as fingers and toes), in the second half of the first year.

It’s vital that you stimulate your baby; it will influence the way in which she learns and interacts with others throughout life. The infant’s brain forms and retains only those synapses that it uses frequently.

Connections that are used become permanent. Some doctors reckon it’s possible that if loving interaction with caring adults is absent, the brain might make different connections. A lack of sensory experiences leads to loss of brain function.

Second Year

Kids usually understand what is said to them before they can speak. This is because infants begin to understand spoken language when development in one section of the left side of the brain takes place.

They start speaking only some months later due to increasing maturity in an adjacent area. The integration that occurs in the second year of life makes all subsequent development much easier.

FACT: The temper tantrums of the terrible twos are a direct result of toddlers’ verbal inability to explain what they want

Medical matters

What can go wrong?

During the first three years of life the brain is at its most vulnerable. Its development is an ongoing process and any trauma or disease such as meningitis spells disaster because it affects the development process of the brain.

Main risks:

Various genetic conditions such as Down syndrome or exposure to alcohol, drugs and infections acquired by the mother during pregnancy, such as German measles, impact severely on the development of the brain. After birth other infections such as meningitis or injury (either accidental or from abuse) can have a devastating effect.

Before birth:

An ultrasound scan can pick up structural brain abnormalities but disorders of brain function will not be detected.

Windows of opportunity

Various brain functions develop optimally at various ages:

  • 0-2 Years

Emotional development

  • 0-4 years

Mathematics and logic

  • 0-10 years


  • 3-10 years


Special thanks to YOU Pulse Summer 2007/8 for sharing this…

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