This is a great question…
The answer is however not so simple as often there are a number of contributing factors that create a compounding effect. There are lots of factors such as restriction in the uterus, birth trauma, stress among others that may affect important brain stimulation as can exposure to harsh chemicals with the result potentially being a young baby who is struggling to integrate their new world. Struggling to learn, to express themselves and to inter-relate.
When the body is out of balance due to stress, trauma or toxins, interestingly the function of the spine and nervous system becomes impaired which results in a reduced flow of the life force. This may cause a lack of coordination and synchronisation of the body.
What to look for…
• Alternate your baby from side to side whilst feeding — this ensures that even right-left brain development occurs. Swap sides even when bottle-feeding.
• Look your baby in the eyes and talk to them frequently throughout the day.
• Get skin-to-skin contact with your baby as often as you can.
• Blow ‘raspberries’ on his tummy.
• Massage your baby, as massage provides wonderful stimulus and feedback to the brain.
• Have your baby’s nervous system checked by a chiropractor or cranial osteopath skilled with children.
Constraint in the uterus or via the birth process can impair nerve function. The earlier your baby is checked the better.
From 3 weeks
• When changing his nappy turn him onto his tummy and briefly (10 seconds) let him lie there; this encourages him to support the weight of his head.
• Lay your baby on your chest and talk to him, encouraging him to lift his head and look you in the eyes. (If your baby does not appear to like lying on their stomach, this could be an indication of spine or nerve irritation and it is best to have them checked by a chiropractor).
• Babies love visual stimulation. Hang mobiles and wall charts with shapes for them to look at, ideally at
varying distances. Start with black and white shapes.
From 6 weeks
• Continue putting your baby on his tummy each time you change his nappy, slowing increasing it to 30 seconds.
• Lie on the floor with him so he has to lift up his head to see you.
• Hold him in your arms and whilst supporting his neck, bend your legs up and down (as if simulating an elevator). Alternatively, hold him safely whilst rocking to and fro in a rocking chair, or place him on your knees whilst sitting on a swivel chair, turning round and round.
These motions are said to stimulate production of new brain cells and synapses.
• Introduce colour and slightly more complex patterns to your baby’s field of vision.
• Cover a torch with different coloured cloths or pieces of cellophane and move it from side to side to see if he will track it.
Carry your baby in supportive baby carriers as much as possible.
An unborn baby spends nine months in the womb experiencing constant motion, warmth, and physical contact with the mother. If a baby cannot feel, smell, and touch their mother, this can be alarming for them and neurological development is often impaired under stressful situations. Researchers are now recognizing the importance of continued contact and motion on the neurological and emotional development of babies.
From 8 weeks
Your baby will begin to focus intently on his hands and other objects that are put in front of him.
He will begin to recognize your face.
He will have greater depth perception.
Your baby will like to listen to musical sounds.
He will begin to recognize your voice.
Your baby will start reaching for and hitting nearby objects.
He will begin to smile at you and interact by trying to “coo”.
He will be able to hold his head up for longer when lying on his tummy.
• Continue putting him on his tummy each time you change his nappy, slowly increasing the time interval.
• Lie on the floor with him so he has to lift up his head to see you.
• Shake rattles and toys that attract his attention and encourage him to follow the sound with his eyes.
From 12 weeks
Your baby will start to recognize faces and places.
He will be able to distinguish between colours.
Your baby reaches for things but misses.
He will watch his hands.
Your baby will put objects in his mouth.
Your baby likes to reach and feel with open hands, grasping crudely with two hands.
When on his tummy, his forearms can support his head and shoulders.
Ideally, he should be starting to roll himself over.
• With one of your hands gently cover one of your baby’s eyes — then shine a small light across the open eye and notice if the pupil of his eye constricts or becomes smaller. Just test this once or twice — do not do repeatedly.
• From around 3-4 months, when you clap your hands near your baby’s head they should stop having such a big startle response.
• Place your baby on his tummy and when he extends one arm forward to touch an object, see if the opposite leg bends up to push off with the toe. If not, then gently bend up this knee to stimulate the cross-over of brain pathways.
He likes to grasp things, then let go and kick at the same time.
He holds and shakes a rattle which is placed in his hand.
He plays with his own hands.
Ideally, he should be rolling from side to side.
Your baby is laughing and blowing ‘raspberries’.
He has learnt that language is fun and is constantly making babbling sounds.
He will laugh at unexpected sounds and sights, and loves games like ‘peek-a-boo’.
Babies, spend nearly half of their waking time doing things like waving their arms, kicking and bouncing. And while it may appear all this activity is just for the sake of moving, it’s important to realize a baby is never “just moving” or “just playing.” Every action extends the child’s development in some way.
Your baby will start to make longer eye contact and explore your face.
His peripheral vision develops.
He uses one syllable words, such as “ah” and “da”.
Be aware he may be shy around strangers.
Your baby will be grasping objects and transferring objects from one hand to the other.
You can gently pull him into a sitting position while he is lying on his back.
When on his back, he may push up with his legs, lifting his bottom.
He discovers his feet.
When lying on his stomach, he pushes up with his arms.
He plays actively when propped up with cushions in play area for 10-15 minutes.
He likes to stand up in your lap and push up on his feet.
He likes to bang items.
• Give your baby a range of toys and objects, including those that make noise.
• Allow your baby time to move about, explore his world and entertain himself with a variety of objects such as cups, soft balls, plastic spoons (BPA-free), string, a plastic mirror, etc.
• Give him a rubber suction toy on the tray of his high chair.
• Put a few ‘pop-up’ toys within easy reach. Watch his surprise as he hits the right buttons.
• Play ‘peek-a-boo’.
• Show him ‘lift-the-flap’ cloth books.
• Let him look at his reflection in a mirror.
Your baby develops greater form perception and has an ability to know object shapes and sizes.
He is able to recognize familiar faces.
Your baby can roll over, lift his head and shoulders when lying on his back, and raise his arms to be
He may be able to sit-up unsupported for a brief time.
He can move an object from one hand to the other.
He examines objects by placing them in his mouth; he likes to chew them.
When lying on his stomach, his head and upper body can be supported by his hands and arms.
He may try to pivot in a semi-circle on his tummy in search of toys.
He likes to play with his feet.
He likes to shake objects and bang objects down.
He may hold onto a bottle.
He will begin to recognize his own name.
Around six months, your baby will give you clues that he is ready for food. Please consider three
1. Slowly introduce foods and preferably introduce low allergy foods to minimize the risk of allergy and sensitivity.
2. Minimize your child’s exposure to toxins. Pollutants in our modern environment—for example
pesticides, heavy metals, herbicides and fumigants—have been linked to abnormalities in behaviour, perception, cognition, and motor ability during early childhood, even when exposure is at so-called harmless levels. Therefore, try to provide your child with fresh air, organic food and a toxin-free environment.
3. Prioritize ‘brain foods’. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are great brain foods and are found in cold-water oily fish, various oils such as macadamia, flaxseed and olive, some nuts and seeds, goat’s milk products, blueberries and egg yolks.
When your baby crawls, both hemispheres of the brain must communicate and interchange information rapidly across the brain stem. What makes this incredibly important is that these same neurological routes are used later in life to perform
more difficult tasks and in the capacity to multi-task.
Your baby may be able to sit up briefly, and likes to sit alone.
He likes to use his finger and thumb.
He notices cause and effect.
He can bite.
He may be drinking from a cup.
He starts combining skills, such as sitting and then lunging into a crawl, then back into a sitting position.
Your baby takes tremendous pleasure in loved ones, and will remember them even when he hasn’t seen them for a few days.
He is wary of strangers.
He may suffer separation anxiety if you go away.
He will use his body to communicate with you, e.g. he will arch his back when you are holding him and he wants to get down.
• Be aware that between 7-24 months it is common for children to experience separation anxiety. Remain patient rather them pushing them to stay with strangers, as forcing them to stay in an environment they do not wish to can intensify the problem.
Your baby likes to pivot on his stomach, throw things, and bang toys together.
Your baby should ideally be able to sit up unassisted.
He will start to pull himself into a standing position.
Your baby may randomly use two syllable words, such as “dada”.
Interact with your baby and encourage him to imitate your arm movements
Your baby can associate voices and names with people, even on the phone.
He will respond to music.
He can sit up on his own, wriggle along on his stomach, he will be close to crawling if he is not already.
If he is strong enough, he may be able to use furniture to pull himself upright.
He may be ready to take his first steps.
He may be able to handle a baby spoon.
He can drink from a cup.
Your baby can wave “bye-bye”.
He understands the concept of “no”.
Give him toys that squeak when he squeezes them.
• Play different types of music for him.
He will like to drop toys, watching and hearing them fall.
• Your baby likes to poke and prod with his fingers, and put smaller objects inside bigger objects.
• He may start to walk; babies usually start somewhere between the ages of 10-14 months.
• He will imitate sounds.
• He may link his first recognizable word to a person, often “dada”.
• Use a soft ball to play with him.
• Explain to him instructions, for example while putting his socks on say “give me your foot and we’ll put your sock on”.
• Your baby is able to lower himself from a standing position.
• He can use crayons and imitates scribbling.
• He will throw objects intentionally.
• He can walk assisted by holding onto furniture or your hand.
• He may say “ta” for thank you and will give you things if you ask.
• He will point to recognizable objects.
• His memory is developing well: he remembers what is behind closed doors, such as pots and pans in the cupboards.
• He often wants to join in conversations and loves to laugh.
• Speak to him knowing he understands more then we realize.
• Teach him the names of friends and family.
• Show him how to place one block after the other on a table if he is not doing so himself – an ideal place to start counting.
• Demonstrate placing blocks one on top of the other.
• The ‘in-the-mouth’ method of learning about the world usually disappears by this time.
• Your baby can turn two to three pages of a book at a time.
• His hand-eye coordination now becomes well established.
• Somewhere between 10-14 months he will begin to walk unassisted.
• Somewhere between 12-18 months he will begin to run – this will still be awkward.
• He will be able to remove gloves, hats, socks and unzip jumpers.
• He is able to open cupboard doors.
• He can walk assisted up and down stairs.
• Your baby has a vocabulary of two to three words.
• Plays near others but may not play with them.
• Will hug others, push, pull, snatch and grab, will defend himself.
• Talks to himself whilst playing.
• Probably won’t ask for help.
Speak to him in full sentences. Encourage him with a range of objects and toys to do lots of self-play. Give him play dough, clay etc – things he can mould. Give him toys he can pretend to feed, wash, clean their teeth and comb their hair. Give him ride-on toys to push himself along.
Prime your baby’s senses
Whenever possible, introduce new sensory experiences to your baby. Let them play with a range of objects which have different textures, temperatures or that make different sounds. Use the everyday world to excite their senses; have them run barefoot on the grass or sand, dip their fingers and toes in water, or play with rustling leaves.
1. Sally Goddard Blythe: What Babies and Children Really Need. 2008 Hawthorn Press, England.
2. Dr Jen. Well Adjusted Babies. PO Box 172, Mt Macedon, VIC 3441, Australia. www.welladjustedbabies.com
3. Jo Frost: Confident Baby Care. 2011. Orion, UK. Available from Amazon.
Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Elisabeth Davidson who kindly gave us permission to reproduce this work.