4 Ways to Help Your Baby's Brain Develop

As a parent and caregiver, there are many actions you can take to produce lasting positive results in your growing child.

1. Get Educated About Your Child

Parenting can be a humbling, confusing, and hectic experience. To many new parents, even the smallest hiccup or sneeze from a newborn could cause unneeded worry. One of the best ways to be able to distinguish between developmental issues and normal development is to learn more about a baby’s development. There are dozens of resources across the web for information on almost anything a parent would want to know. Even on our own website, we specifically highlight the development of the brain and the development of your child’s senses: touch, taste and smell, vision, and hearing. These articles highlight proper developmental pathways for growing babies, and the proper avenues to take if a developmental gap is evident.

2. Invest in Your Education

While getting educated about your child can help, parents investing in their own educational development helps foster child development as well. Higher levels of education help parents attain higher earnings. In 2011, high school graduates earned on average nearly 30% more income than those with less than a high school diploma1 and those with an associates degree earned on average 25% more than those with just a high school diploma and more than 60% than those with less than a high school diploma.1 Higher earnings allow parents to more easily improve their children’s physical surroundings (like safer neighborhoods) and purchase educational peripherals (like books and learning toys). Moreover, research has shown that maternal education is a strong predictor of children’s language, cognitive, and academic development.2,3

3. Breastfeed

Starting at birth, breastfeeding offers many benefits to your baby because breast milk has the ideal combination of nutrients in a form easy to digest and absorb. Research shows that compared to children who were fed formula, breastfed children show stronger cognitive outcomes as early as 6 months of age and throughout childhood and adolescence.4,5 Research has also indicated that breastfeeding also has later health benefits by decreasing the risk of childhood and adult obesity.

4. Look for high-quality early care and education

Many parents and caretakers have packed schedules. Parents often rely on child care to compensate for busy schedules. However, when considering childcare, parents need to do their research to find the best facility for their child. Not all childcare is the same. Some providers completely lack accreditation or any sort of educational curriculum. High quality childcare is highly encouraged and is just as important for infants and toddlers as for older children. Research shows that stable, high-quality care during the first three years has been linked to math and reading achievement in middle childhood.6,7 For more information on childcare, take a look at our recent Research to Policy on childcare centers.

  1. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). The condition of education 2013 (NCES 2013-037), annual earnings of young adults. Available here.
  2. Dubow EF, Boxer P, Huesmann LR. Long-term effects of parents’ education on children’s educational and occupational success. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly. 2009; 55(3): 224-249.
  3. Magnuson KA, Sexton HR, Davis-Kean PE, et al. Increases in maternal education and young children’s language skills. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly. 2009; 55 (3): 319-350.
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2005; 115(2): 496-506.
  5. Dee DL, Li R, Lee LC, et al. Associations between Breastfeeding practices and young children’s language and motor skill development. Pediatrics. 2007; 119: 92-98.
  6. Burchinal MR, Nabors L, Bryant D, et al. Quality of center child care and infant cognitive and language development. Child Development. 1996; 67: 606-620.
  7. Dearing E, McCartney K, Taylor B. Does higher-quality early child care promote low-income children's math and reading achievement in middle childhood? Child Development. 2009; 80: 1329-1349.