Despite all the highs and lows that a new baby can bring one thing is certain: Babies are amazing!  Thinking about some of the reasons that babies are amazing can help when it is feeling like a struggle.

A baby’s brain may be tiny but there is a lot going on in there!

A bit of science to start with! We are born with billions of neurons pre-formed ready to go.  But the connections between neurons and different parts of the brain are not established and the connecting up process happens during those early years and is at the fastest rate it ever will be. When we are born, our brains are bombarded with sensations and feelings but we have no idea what they are or where they come from. During the first few years of a baby’s life their brain develops so they can identify feelings such as love, or rage, fear or happiness. 

Babies are amazing communicators

Babies enter the world ready and able to begin learning any language spoken on earth. Babies’ brains constitute the fastest, most powerful and most flexible computational processors in the known universe. If aliens arrived from space, our best bet for gaining a grasp of their language might be to allow babies to interact with them!  We’d probably have to wait a year or two before our babies could start to tell us what they have learned, but that would likely be faster than any adult language experts could manage. We should remember this next time we are interacting with a baby.

TOP TIP! Try speaking in your normal conversational voice, about anything, to your baby in a reasonably calm state of mind.  Make a point of just waiting, while the baby deals with your communication. Wait, pay attention, and see what happens. Given time and attention, babies can respond in remarkable ways.

Your baby needs you close

Babies arrive exquisitely attuned to attach to a caregiver. If they weren’t able to evoke caregiving responses in adults, due to their complete dependency they would be at risk of not surviving.  Attachment behaviour is genetically determined, so babies are powerfully appealing, in their vulnerability, to their biological parents.

Genes vs early experiences

We know genes don’t rule everything. Their effect is determined by the kind of experiences we have. A troubled emotional environment for a baby out-trumps everything. If you take a bunch of babies with the ‘best’ genes possible but they have a really troubled early environment, they will do much worse in their development than babies with the ‘worst’ genes that have a really good environment and receive secure parenting.

Peter Toolan is a Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist in Children North East’s NEWPIP Service.

If you are struggling with your baby then please do get in touch with us.

If this advice page has helped you then please consider donating to NEWPIP's appeal to raise money for Treasure Baskets to support their work with parents and babies.