What Factors Affect Cognitive Development in Infants?

by Carly Seifert

Though it may seem as though your infant does nothing but eat, sleep and poop, he is actually busy growing, learning and developing. Experts with the American Academy of Pediatrics state that you are your baby's first teacher, and the first experiences with which you provide your little one impact his cognitive development. By giving him good nutrition, love and a stimulating environment, you are promoting his cognitive development.

Nutrition

The website of the National Food Service Management Institute states that good nutrition is essential to child development and learning and that nutrition during the early years of life is linked to a child's performance in later years. Malnutrition during pregnancy and the first two years of life results in negative effects on brain development that can be irreversible. Adequate iron and iodine during infancy is important to brain tissue and cognitive development. According to a 2008 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, there is strong evidence that prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding improves a child's cognitive development.

Attachment

The Kids Health website states that a parent's responsiveness to her baby's signals can affect the infant's cognitive development. When you respond to your infant's cries by cuddling, soothing and reassuring him, you are building positive brain circuitry in the limbic area of his brain, helping to develop his emotions in a healthy way and giving him a sense of security. When your baby is securely attached to you, he will be able to spend more of his emotional energy exploring, learning and discovering.

Environment

Providing an enriching environment for your infant will enhance his cognitive development. Age-appropriate toys that encourage exploration and interaction -- such as a jack-in-the-box or stackable blocks -- help your little one discover cause-and-effect relationships. Reading books with large and colorful pictures provides him with stimulation and promotes language development. Singing encourages your child's learning of rhythms, rhymes and language patterns. Responding to your baby's coos and noises with high-pitched, happy vocalizations helps your infant begin to understand speech.

Importance of You

Caring for an infant demands much of your time and energy. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org, you need to be healthy and happy in order to provide your baby with the best start possible. When you are well-rested, you will have more energy to give him the loving attention and stimulating environment he needs for optimal cognitive development. Be sure to let your partner, relative or close friend know when you need a break to take a nap or have some time to yourself.

About the Author

Carly Seifert has been a piano instructor since 2001. She has also covered adoption and introducing children to the arts for "Montana Parent Magazine." Seifert graduated from University of California, Irvine with a Bachelor of Arts in drama.

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