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By TEIS Early Intervention Provider
Your child’s brain begins to grow and develop before birth and continues to develop into his early 20’s. But from conception to age 3 is a critical period in your child’s brain development. How can you ensure your baby’s optimal brain development starting before birth? First be sure that you receive proper prenatal care as soon as you find out that you are pregnant. Secondly, stay away from toxins that can be harmful to your baby’s brain development such as cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and environmental toxins. It is also important that your own vaccinations are current so that you do not pass on illnesses to your unborn child. Take care of your own mental and physical health by eating a nutritious diet, and getting help for stress, anxiety and depression. Certain infectious diseases can also harm your unborn baby such as contracting Zika virus or Cytomegalovirus.
Once your baby is born, his brain grows rapidly in the first three years. ”At birth, it already has about all of the neurons it will ever have. It doubles in size in the first year, and by age three it has reached 80 percent of its adult volume.” Early experiences are critical to a baby’s brain development, such as talking, reading, singing and playing with your child on a daily basis from birth onward. Just as positive interactions stimulate your baby’s brain development, trauma, neglect and abuse can adversely affect your baby’s brain development. Be sure your child is eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep for brain growth. If you have concerns about your baby’s learning, play skills or development in any area speak with your pediatrician immediately and call your local Early Intervention Provider for a full developmental evaluation.
There are quite a few great articles detailing the fascinating and rapid growth of your child’s brain and why the first 3 years are so critical. These articles provide more detail into brain growth and how to stimulate your child’s healthy brain development. To read more on how to stimulate your baby’s brain development and ensure their optimal health and development check out these excellent resources:
Gilmore JH, Lin W, Prasatwa MW, et al. Regional gray matter growth, sexual dimorphism, and cerebral asymmetry in the neonatal brain. Journal of Neuroscience. 2007;27(6):1255-1260