Monday, September 16th, 2013
The moment arrives. The baby’s here. Your life as mom or dad begins. And it’s not too early to marvel at how your newborn is wired to interact with you.
WHAT’S GOING ON? Researchers have explored this phenomenon for decades, and some have continued to question if this is really social imitation (scientists are very good at coming up with – and ruling out – all kinds of alternative explanations for behaviors we observe). But a recent study of newborns has looked at this phenomenon of “imitation of tongue protrusion” and has concluded that it is what it is – even in the first few days of life babies are fascinated with your face, what it does, and in some cases have the neuromuscular control to copy you as a way of connecting with you.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE? Check out this 10-minute old newborn demonstrate “imitation of tongue protrusion.”
SHOULD I WORRY IF MY BABY DOESN’T DO IT? Keep in mind that “imitation of tongue protrusion” is not a diagnostic test. Some babies do it, some don’t. It’s not something to “work at” to make sure they do it. That’s not the point at all. The point is that your newborn is waiting to interact with you. There are many ways to nurture that fundamental urge, like gently stroking their cheek to promote them to turn their head, also known as the rooting reflex (which is a handy way to learn how to direct the head and mouth to a food source). Check out this list of 50 simple things you can do to “make your babies smarter” that are interactive, playful, and stimulating.
IS THIS JUST ABOUT LEARNING? All of these ways of interacting with babies promote brain development and provide the type of optimal stimulation they need. It’s good to know that babies are equipped with the ability to search out exactly what that is – something researchers call the “Goldilocks effect” – as they can, for example, scan for just the right amount of information they need in the human face at different ages. But beyond the purely cognitive elements here, remember that it’s really about the social bonding. Your baby is not only learning that the world is interesting and full of surprise and stimulation, he or she is discovering the joy of having you there to bond with, play with, and love.
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