As mum to a new baby it’s so important to realise that at this stage, often referred to as the “fourth trimester”, the brain is developing at a very fast pace.
Eye contact, communicating, showing love and affection all have a huge impact on a baby’s development and the power of this connection should never be underestimated.
Your time with your new baby is special and feeding time in particular should be a regarded as a special time to connect with your baby and not your phone or other distractions.
Learning to understand this special time from your baby’s point of view
Did you know that the first 3 months of my life, often called the “fourth trimester” is a time of intense brain development for me? During this short time my brain will grow by about 20 percent and it is my experiences with you that keep my brain growing.
In my first few hours of life I can show a preference for my Mother’s face. By the time I am 3 months old I can show a strong preference for features on my Mother’s face, most especially her eyes. At this stage I will prefer to look at my Mother’s face and eyes more than anything else you try to wave in front of me.
Feeding time is one of my favourite moments to connect with you. I am lying back in your arms, feeling safe and secure in your hold while you respond to my hunger cues. We get to lock eyes with each other. It is really important to me that you look at me during these feeding moments.
Did you know that the best way to support my brain development at this early stage and to help me learn to talk and develop other cognitive skills is through live, in the present moment interaction with you? The best viewing distance for me as a newborn baby is 6-12 inches away from me. So this feeding hold is just perfect for me to really see you and be seen by you in return.
Even beyond feeding or nappy changing time I need you to stay close to me and give me face-to-face time with you as much as you can in these early months. I need to be talked to, touched and played with but I especially need eye contact with you. This allows me to experience your different facial expressions, which allows me to thrive developmentally. Eye contact allows us to bond with each other, it is a two way process. When we babies are not given enough face-to-face interaction or do not get this important eye contact with our parents it can stop us developing the neural pathways we need to develop in order to learn.
So, to summarise:
Eye contact and face-to-face interaction is very important to a new baby, even more so now since the introduction of smart phones. Remember, looking into your newborn’s eyes and spending time bonding with them can help to support their development. So please put down the smart phone, turn it off for a while and look at your new baby, connect with your new baby. You can always check your messages later when baby is asleep.