The first 1001 days of life runs from conception to age two. There is clear evidence that combining this time of rapid physical growth with positive nurturing can shape babies’ social and emotional development for life! It’s the time when the foundations for later development are laid which can also affect a child’s future health, learning and even earnings potential.
During the first 1001 days, children’s brains develop faster than at any other time in their life and millions and millions of pathways are formed and connected. These strong foundations are important as other forms of development will rest upon them. Weaker foundations get pruned back to allow stronger foundations to flourish.
Babies’ development is strongly influenced by their experiences in the womb and the early years. Nurturing relationships begin during pregnancy. Babies’ brains develop rapidly during the end of pregnancy which can be influenced by the internal physical environment as well as what is going on in the world around them. When expectant parents engage with their baby in the womb by doing things like stroking, singing or talking, more and more of these wonderful positive pathways are formed and connected thus ensuring stronger and stronger foundations.
This continues after birth whenever the babies’ primary caregivers (usually the parents) continue the positive engagement by kissing and cuddling and even by blowing raspberries on the baby’s tummy!
Human babies can’t fend for themselves. They rely on their parents to respond to their needs. Parents who are tuned-in to their babies’ needs and respond quickly, sensitively and appropriately, strengthen this early development. A baby has a strong need for a continuation of the womb like environment in the first three months (sometimes called the fourth trimester); responsive parenting at this early stage will pay dividends later:
Babies feel safe and begin to explore the world around them to play, socialise and learn
Babies learn how to regulate and express emotions. If they cry and a parent responds sensitively, they learn that when they are upset, they can rely on their parents (and others later on in life) to help them. As they grow into toddlers, and are helped to handle difficult emotions, they find these can be brought under control with the help of their carers
Babies and toddlers are stimulated by positive, playful interactions such as singing, talking and reading which supports early language development
Track forwards a few years and these babies become children starting school. Children who have experienced good relationships as babies start school best equipped to make friends and learn. They usually have more self-confidence and self-esteem, are sociable and able to regulate their emotions and control their impulses. This combination means they will have stronger relationships with teachers and peers and are better able to settle into learning thus increasing the chances they will achieve their full potential.
Emotional regulation is strongly associated with mental well-being and good physical health. Track forwards again and as adults, your children are more likely to avoid risky, harmful or antisocial behaviour.
Healthy relationships enable children to lead happy and fulfilling lives. A child’s experience of being parented also influences how they go on to parent their own children. Supporting babies’ brain development pays dividends for generations to come.