Infant Education & Resources
Caring For and About Infants and Toddlers:
Researcher, activist, and pediatrician, T. Berry Brazelton, MD (1918–2018), devoted his career to understanding children’s behavior and development, the strengths that parents bring to raising them, and the challenges that parents face. In particular, Brazelton was deeply concerned about the conditions and contexts in which families raise children, how these can disrupt children’s development, and what might be done—through research, policy, and practice—to foster more favorable environments for families.
How do Infants Initially Learn:
As soon as an infant is born they begin to learn and understand the world from observation and experiences. Their brains are forming rapidly, creating new neural connections daily by taking note of how their needs are being met. When an infant cries because they are hungry and their parent responds with breastmilk, they begin to understand that they can get what they need through communication (in whatever way they can). This sense of security not only provides the infant with their needs being met, but also forms the initial signs of a secure attachment.
Also Learn Through Imitation:
At around 8 months of age, children imitate simple actions and expressions of others during interactions. Imitation is a crucial aspect of skill development, because it allows us to learn new things quickly and efficiently by watching those around us. Most children learn everything from gross motor movements, to speech, to interactive play skills by watching parents, caregivers, siblings, and peers perform these behaviors.
Study on Learning and Development:
Once a baby is born, they are able to quickly recognize human faces and while their eyesight is limited at first, they prefer to look at familiar faces. In a study on newborns, they were presented paddles with either an image of an intact face or a scattered face. The researchers would move the paddles along the newborn’s line of sight. The results showed that the newborns preferred the intact faces since they followed them for longer than the paddles with the scattered faces. This amazing study demonstrates the fast-paced learning and development that is happening once born.
Carolyn C. Goren, Merrill Sarty, Paul Y. K. Wu; Visual Following and Pattern Discrimination of Face-like Stimuli by Newborn Infants. Pediatrics October 1975; 56 (4): 544–549. 10.1542/peds.56.4.544
Serve and Return:
Serve and return is what strengthens the child’s brain and supports the development of communication and social skills. While infants are young, they are always learning, so when they cry, gesture or babble, and an adult responds in a suitable manner, this strengthens and builds neural connections in the child’s brain. This reciprocal interaction enacts to the infant that they are able to communicate their needs and be heard by the adult. Not only does serve and return assist in the development of the child, it can strengthen the parent-child relationship.
How to Strengthen Serve and Return Interactions:
Oftentimes, parents are serving their attention, time, and encouragement while the infant is serving through interactions and development. Serve and return can be more impactful when the parent is giving their full attention. While multitasking is often our only option in today’s busy society, taking time to be in the moment with your child allows the serve and return to be a lot stronger. A simple way to do this is by putting your phone away and giving your undivided attention to your infant.