The two most beautiful days of my existence are Ethan and Joshua’s birthdays.
“Birth is not only about making babies. It’s about making mothers; strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and believe in their inner strength.” ~Barbara Katz Rothman
We must suffer, endure agonizing labor pains in order to meet the life that grew inside us, but at the end there is this remarkable outcome. Not only the birth of another human life, but the birth of a mother.
WOW! You have just been assigned the most important and influential role you will ever have in this life.
You are now entrusted to protect, love, guide, teach and nurture this little person. To him/her YOU are their ENTIRE world.
A baby’s auditory is the strongest sense at birth. The moment the baby is placed in your arms, he/she will immediately recognize your voice. He/she has been listening to your voice from inside the womb for months.
Your first words out of the womb to your baby are actually the building blocks of early language connections. Your baby is immediately engaging his/her brain in development by building the connection of putting a face to the voice that they have heard for so long.
A baby’s brain is wired to learn and develops at astonishing rates. That is why learning starts at birth. Think of a baby’s brain as a sponge. It will absorb and grow with every interaction. Mommies, you are YOUR child’s first teacher. You have the power to help baby develop his/her brain to the fullest potential.
So how can we help to develop baby’s brain?
Since our bodies are made to also NOURISH a human being, it comes naturally for me to advise that breast milk is best. It’s liquid gold. It is the most brain enriching food on this planet for baby.
I am a HUGE breastfeeding advocate! I have always said to all my mommy friends that breastfeeding is 10% physical and 90% mental. We come physically equipped with all that is needed to feed our babies, but you have to go in with a determined mindset because it WILL hurt and it takes practice in the beginning. Don’t give up!
I believe it is so important to surround yourself with people who will support and encourage you. That is key to successful breastfeeding.
A great breastfeeding book that I found helpful was “The American Academy of Pediatrics New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding”.
“For most newborns, good nutrition starts with mother’s milk. First comes colostrum, a thick high-calorie fluid secreted by the woman’s breasts at the birth of her child. After three days, the breasts begin to produce milk, which is the ideal infant food. Mother’s milk helps prevent almost every infant illness and allergy. It is always sterile and body temperature; it contains more iron, vitamins C and A, and many other nourishing substances than cow’s or goat’s milk; it provides antibodies against any disease that the mother has been immunized against. The specific fats and sugars in breast milk make it more digestible, and better for the infant brain, then any prepared formula. The particular composition of breast milk adjusts to the age of the baby.” (The Developing Person through Childhood and Adolescence Seventh Edition).
I was blessed with the opportunity to exclusively breastfeed both my boys. No bottles or formula. I didn’t even give them pacifiers because I personally did not want any of those things to hinder the success of nursing.
Babies WILL prefer a bottle over breast if given the choice because the flow of the bottle’s nipple comes out at a faster rate than the breast. A baby must exercise his/her jaw and trigger the “let down” of mommy’s milk by continually sucking.
I hope this encourages a mommy out there to nurse her baby and not give up. YOU ARE AMAZING MAMA!
I wanted to briefly touch on a few basic topics because in order to thrive in the learning process, a baby needs a SAFE environment.
Pediatric care is crucial. Pediatricians are doctors who specialize in children. I recommend having a pediatrician already picked out before birth.
Remember you always NEED to have an infant rear facing car seat properly installed in your vehicle to travel safely anywhere with your baby.
When you put baby down to sleep always place him/her on their back in a crib to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Babies also do not need extra blankets, pillows or bumpers in the crib. All those things pose a potential suffocation hazard to baby.
Ok now back to growing those brains!
I personally read to each of my sons every night since I brought them home. I would point as I read to all the letters and numbers in books throughout their first year so they would associate the print with the speech.
I would elongate the vowel sounds with exaggerated facial expressions when I talked to them.
“AHHHHHH” “EEEEEEE” “IIIIIII” “OHHHHH” “OUUUUUU”
An example: “Looook at the biiiig bluuue teeedy bear!” *Notice how the vowel sounds in the words are exaggerated and how descriptive words are also being used.
Parentese is a particular way of speaking and gesturing to babies that actually comes natural to most mothers. We do it without realizing!
“Parentese– a slower, high pitched, over exaggerated way of speaking to babies that you see most adults using. We open our eyes wider, put on big smiles, and over-enunciate the words we’re saying.” (Rhyme and Reason Early Learning).
*Please avoid baby talk, which is just regular words that are changed into nonsense. This will actually delay speech and children will not learn the correct way to speak. An example of a common used baby talk phrase is “Wha a toot wittle beebee.”
Since babies POOP A LOT, diaper changes are such a great opportunity to talk to them. Babies love studying mommy’s face and mouth moments. They love the sound your mouth makes (aka language). It’s fascinating to them and they will try to mimick you!
Besides endlessly talking, I also loved singing nursery rhymes to the boys and played endless games of peek a boo. I also considered myself a master of finger puppet stories. I used descriptive language in our day to day conversations and interactions. I labeled and described everything they would see and hear.
I made it a goal to provide a rich language environment because I believe early language development is the fundamental key in early brain development and future educational success.
Everyone thought I was a little crazy, even my own husband at some point, but this mama bear had a plan to unlock potential treasures.
GUESS WHAT HAPPENED?
Even though Ethan and Joshua are two different children, with different learning styles, and a 5 year age gap between them, they both were early speakers and communicators.
The boys had almost the exact verbal timeline development.
- The first signs of language emerged at 2-3 months with cooing and mimicking mouth moments.
- Ethan and Joshua said “mama and dada” at 6 months.
- At 9 months Ethan was saying words like “hat”, “no”, “go”, “shoes”.
- At 7 months Joshua was saying words like “up” “want” “cheese” “no”.
- By 12 months both boys could use a 2 word phrase like “want up”, “more juice”, “go play”.
- By 18 months (language explosion) they both were able to put 3-4 word phrases together such as “no more juice mama”, “kick the ball”, “I don’t want it” , “give to me”.
- By 2 years old both boys would talk in full, clear sentences. They could easily comprehend and carry a conversation with an adult. They both loved to retell stories and past events. They were able to recognize at least half of the alphabetical letters in print. They knew all the basic colors, basic shapes, and numbers 1-20.
The boys did not have a structured everyday learning schedule. The key factor was that learning was just part of their normal everyday environment.
I truly believe EVERY child can achieve this given the right start!
Talk, sing, read, serve endless back and forth communication. It will return in the most amazing way!