Providing consistent, compassionate care to your new baby is an important aspect of parenting that can be highly beneficial to their developmental outcomes and is a beautiful way to optimise secure attachment.
There is a large body of evidence in the neuroscience field that points to the many positive outcomes of responding to your baby in a sensible and sensitive way as much as you can, bearing in mind we can’t always respond immediately especially if we have other children. Our environment and our experiences help shape our brain and at such an intense time of rapid development our babies brains need repeated exposure to responsive caregiving.
As you get to know your baby and continually witness their cues, meaning their cries and/or physical movements that indicate their needs or mood before they can verbalise these, you will be slowly able to identify, interpret and respond to these needs appropriately. It’s a learning process and one that requires close contact with your baby.
By responding in a way that acknowledges and reacts to your baby’s cues, for example when your baby begins to turn their head from side to side, opening their mouth wide or starts sucking on their hands to indicate hunger, and in response you feed them, that meets the needs of your baby in that moment and send a signal to their brain that says “when I do this, my parent responds like that.”
Consistently responding to your baby’s needs for nourishment, hygiene, heath care, stimulation, affection and reassurance in an appropriate way continues to send these signals to their brain and they form strong neurological pathways.
These pathways hardwire them for healthy cognitive, social and emotional development. Studies show that children who are cared for in this manner form strong positive attachments to their caregivers, have trusting and enriching relationships and have better learning outcomes.
New babies need a lot of your attention and support to thrive in their early development and this can be exhausting. Parenting can feel like a lengthy exercise in patience and the constant demands may stretch your limits of capacity for caregiving.
As night approaches it can feel daunting to think about what may come and how often you may be called upon to respond to your baby. As day breaks it may feel overwhelming to think of the responsibilities you have ahead and how you will manage the juggling act.
From waking frequently to intense bouts of crying to cluster feeding, newborn life can take a toll on parents and sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the important and amazing work you are doing during these times.
By providing consistent, compassionate care to your baby you are stimulating brain development, building a strong foundation for your child’s future learning, health and life success and helping lay the groundwork for your child to fulfil their amazing potential. It’s incredible! I hope this feels encouraging and that in difficult moments you can feel proud of your efforts and excited about what the future holds for your baby and your relationship with them.
For more information, or book an appointment to see Ballarat Women’s Clinic’s Perinatal Support Consultant Jacinda Saunders, please call the Ballarat Women’s Clinic on (03) 5332 9940.
Written by Perinatal Support Consultant Jacinda Saunders
We work and live on Wadawarrung land. We acknowledge Elders, past present and emerging.
Together with Brigid Moloney, we have put together a team of health professionals with expert knowledge to care for women at every stage of life. Welcome to the Ballarat Women's Clinic.