Research shows that head size growth in the first year of life relates to intelligence later (Gale et al., 2006). It doesn't matter how large the baby's head was at birth, it's what happens in the first year after birth that matters most.
How do babies grow after birth?
DNA synthesis occurs rapidly following conception and through the first years of life. Nerve growth factor is a hormone that facilitates development. Both are promoted by TOUCH.
When mothers stop touching their infants, DNA synthesis stops, growth hormone diminishes (Schaunberg, 1995). Physiologically, the baby goes into "survival mode."
Our ancestors carried and held (all the time) and slept with their babies, maximizing growth.
What else helps the baby grow?
Breastmilk. Use of infant formula is risky. It is greatly inferior to breastmilk in so many ways (I'll put this in a later blog). It linked to poor development of brain neurotransmitters and of the immune system which influence how the brain functions. Formula feeding is a risk factor for all sorts of diseases, large and small, including diabetes.
Breastfeeding encourages right brain development, the source of social emotions and practical intelligence. Breast milk fosters more efficient function=more intelligence.
Even adopting moms can breastfeed!
What deters growth?
Distress. Crying kills neurons.When the stress-response system kicks in, goodbye neurons. But the "other brain" is also affected. Too much stress suppresses glial cell division--and glial cells take care of myelinization at developmental plateaus (myelin is the capstone for a neuron and facilitates communication with other neurons).
It is advisable for a parent to be like an ancient traditionalist---anticipate the baby's needs by its movements, its restlessness. Don't let it get upset before tending to its needs. Figure out the specific holding and rocking patterns that it prefers and that calm it down.
(Traditional caregivers are even able to anticipate elimination in their babies when they carry them around, circumventing the need for diapers. Of course, most of the time we cannot follow this practice in the modern world!)
It's not surprising that these parenting principles have been around for 30 million years among catarrhine mammals (of which we are a part). These practices are shown to bring about intelligence by fostering a well-functioning body and brain.
Take home message: If you want a smart baby...
1, (Almost) NEVER PUT IT DOWN!
2, Keep it CALM.
3. Feed it MOTHER's milk. Plan and work to breastfeed for at least a year if not longer (ancestral patterns were 2-5 years; Hewlett & Lamb, 2005).
OTHER POSTS ON PARENTING ISSUES :
New Moms Need Social Support
Painkillers for Childbirth? The Few Pros and Many Cons
What's the Use of Midwives and Doulas?
Jesus Had a Home Birth
What if Jesus Had Been Born in the USA?
Why Continue to Harm Boys from Ignorance of Male Anatomy?
What Is the Greatest Danger for an Uncircumcised Boy?
Circumcision Ethics and Economics
Circumcision: Social, Sexual, Psychological Realities
More Circumcision Myths You May Believe: Hygiene and STDs
Myths about Circumcision You Likely Believe
Stand Up For Breastfeeding
Talk About Breastfeeding With Your Family, Friends and Doctor
Breastmilk Wipes Out Formula: Responses to Critical Comments
In Light of Last Week's Posts: Is Pushing* Formula Evil?
The REAL Truth about Breastfeeding
5 Things You Thought You Knew about Breastfeeding
The TREMENDOUS Benefits of Doing What is Normal: Breastfeeding
Myths you probably believe about infant formula
Your assumptions about infant formula are probably wrong
It’s Breastfeeding Week: Why should you care?
1. Baby Sleep Training: Mistakes "Experts" and Parents Make
2. Letting Crying Babes Lie? So Wrong
3. Simple ways to calm a crying baby
4. Normal, Human Infant Sleep: PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4, PART 5
5. Understanding and Helping Toddler Sleep: PART 1, PART 2, PART 3
What Happened to Ethics in Pediatric Medicine?
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Ten Ways to Truly Respect Motherhood
Slings and Heroes
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Babies "don’t cry in Africa," why should they cry in the USA?
Blame the baby or blame the experts?
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Are you or your child on a (touch) starvation diet?
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What Does Good Parenting Look Like? You Decide.
Are You a “Childist?" Test Yourself
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Where Are the Happy Babies?
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Increase the well-being of children around you
Catharine R. Gale, PhD, Finbar J. O'Callaghan, PhD, Maria Bredow, MBChB, Christopher N. Martyn, DPhil and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children Study Team (October 4, 2006). "The Influence of Head Growth in Fetal Life, Infancy, and Childhood on Intelligence at the Ages of 4 and 8 Years". PEDIATRICS Vol. 118 No. 4 October 2006, pp. 1486-1492. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/short/118/4/1486.
Hewlett, B., & Lamb, M. (2005). Hunter-gatherer childhoods.New York: Aldine.
Schanberg, S. (1995). The genetic basis for touch effects. In T. Field (Ed.), Touch and Early Experience (pp. 67-80). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.