Baby brain development from conception to childhood

Baby brain development is a fascinating process. Once understood, it will help you to nurture, guide and parent your child.

First trimester

Baby brain development starts early. The brain is one of the first things to form after conception. Most of the brain’s structure is present at 8 weeks of gestation and will continue to develop throughout pregnancy. The spinal cord develops along with the first neurons and synapses. These early formations allow the fetus to perform early movements, though they are too small to detect. This is the first step for the brain to interpret sensory input through the body’s movement.

Second trimester see more baby brain development

One of the most major baby brain development events of the second trimester is the formation of the cerebral cortex. It is the outermost layer of the brain and contains the four different lobes:

  • Frontal
  • Parietal
  • Temporal
  • Occipital

Each lobe is responsible for handling and processing sensory input. Myelin, a combination of proteins, also develops and insulates nerves, increasing the speed of nerve impulses.

Third trimester

The cerebral cortex becomes more efficient and begins to master primary functions of the body like breathing. During this stage, a pregnant mother will feel the baby’s movement and may even notice the baby’s response to outside stimuli, like touches to the tummy, loud noises, or the mother’s movement.

First month after birth

During the first few newborn weeks, your days will blur into one and most of the baby’s time will be spent eating and sleeping. These are both incredibly important for the baby’s brain development. Consider your options for breast milk, formula, and sleep training, and how they benefit your baby. You can start sleep training early, but don’t be discouraged if your baby’s sleep patterns don’t become regular until after the first month. Focus on giving your baby love, comfort, nourishment, and sleep.

First three months of baby brain development

As your baby’s eyesight improves from colorless and nearsightedness to full color and farther distances, she will see you and the surrounding world better. Her wide eyes will wander more and she will seek other sensory input by putting things like fingers in her mouth. Usually by the end of the second month, your baby will master the “social smile,” smiling in response to attention. Encourage your baby by making eye contact, getting her to focus on various objects, and giving her “tummy time” each day to begin practicing gross motor skills.

You can help baby brain development by providing lots of attention, snuggles, kisses, and comfort. All of these provide the baby with sensory input. She will learn to recognize you and your voice and associate specific sights with sounds. Soothing when the baby is fussy calms the baby’s brain and allows it to develop. Also encourage your baby to kick and reach for things when she is on her back.

It is never too early to provide audio stimulation as well. Your baby’s brain is learning even as you talk and sing, play music, and allow her to experience sounds of the outdoors as well as quiet time inside.
Continue sleep training and provide some structure in your daily schedule, as these both are incredibly instrumental in fostering growth, cognitive development, trust, and safe spaces to learn by repetition.

First year of baby brain development

During the first year of life, the size of your baby’s brain will double. By the end of the first year, most babies will have mastered gross motor skills like scooting or crawling, and some will even be well on their way to pulling up on furniture and walking. Fine motor skills will also develop as your baby learns to grasp food with his “pincer” fingers. Practice pointing things out to your baby and watch as he learns to point things out to you as well.

Cognitive development by the end of the first year is astronomical. Your 1-year-old will begin mimicking your words, sounds, and inflections, even if words are still incoherent. Most babies will giggle, babble, and coo as you play games like peek-a-boo. It’s their way of practicing communication.

Memory begins to persist, and if your baby gets immunizations at 9 months, they may recall feelings of pain the next time they go to the doctor. Your baby’s memory will improve through adequate sleep and through repetitive activities like reading, games, and everyday routines.

First three years

Your child’s brain continues to develop until it triples its weight in the first three years. You will see more gigantic leaps in cognitive development, such as your toddler understanding more abstract concepts like cause and effect. (“If I throw my food on the floor, Mommy might not be happy with me.”) You can start young to teach your toddler that actions like hitting or biting lead to time-out and that Daddy is proud when his baby girl shows kindness to other babies. This is also a prime time for her to help pick up toys after playtime and help Mommy or Daddy cook or clean, because they love to imitate you.

Fine motor skills develop even more as your toddler learns to place puzzle pieces, hold crayons, color inside the lines, dress herself, and handle eating utensils. Allow your toddler to make a few messes while she practices these skills. They’re important for her curiosity and confidence.

Age three and beyond

As you watch your child grow, you will likely be astounded by the rate at which he learns, and at his imagination and ability to love. Provide plenty of social opportunities through school, music lessons, and play dates at the park for your child’s brain development to include a wider range of athletic, social, and mental skills. To top it all off, the joy and wonder of these childhood discoveries have been known to benefit the parent’s cognitive development and sense of well being, too!

Contact us to learn more about surrogacy and how to help your baby grow and thrive.