Dr Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD – Parenting Consultant
About Dr Debmita Dutta – Dr Debmita Dutta is a practising doctor, a parenting consultant and the founder of the website https://whatparentsask.com/ – a video based website that provides expert answers to parenting questions. She is based in Bangalore and conducts parenting workshops and prenatal classes for pregnant parents in addition to her medical practice. She believes that parenting stress can be relieved significantly when parents are well informed about their children’s growing brains and bodies.
Can you make your baby intelligent?
Yes you can. Science has now found that intelligence is not a fixed quality. It is not something babies are born with. And it is not something that remains constant through life. So yes – an emphatic yes – you can boost your baby’s brain power.
Babies are not born intelligent. They become intelligent over a period of time. How intelligent a baby becomes depends on three things – the people she/he interacts with, the environment she/he lives in and the experiences she/he has.
It is very simple to understand this if we think about how we define intelligence. When we call a child intelligent – we do so because the child ‘knows’ many things. What does this mean? It means that the child has learnt a lot of things. But how has the child learnt? The child has learnt things because she/he has seen things in the environment around her/him. She/he has had experiences that other children have not had. And she/he has had those experiences explained by adults around that has helped her/him to learn further and understand more.
So, what are the experiences babies can learn from? What should the environment around a baby contain? And what should you do to make your baby intelligent?
Here are 7 everyday things you can do to make your baby intelligent:
Breastfeed your baby
When babies are born they can only see to an approximate distance of 12 inches. And what they love to look at is their mother’s face. When you breastfeed your baby you hold your baby at 12 inches from your face. Since you are all your baby can see and hear at that point – focus on your baby’s face when you are feeding your baby and talk to your baby. A lot of learning happens this way. Do not use devices. They distract you and take you far away from your baby.
Talk to your baby in a high pitched voice
Much of what a baby learns is done by listening to what the adults around her/him have to say. But babies cannot follow normal conversations happening around them. They hear only when you speak to them in a high pitched voice, very slowly while keeping your face very close to the baby’s face. This is the typical way in which all adults talk to babies in general. “Hellllllloooooo – hooooow aaaaare youuuuuuuu” is said in a high pitched voice while leaning in close to the baby when any adult talks to a baby. This is called motherese. Tell your child about your day in motherese. Do not feel embarrassed to do this. It is building your baby’s brain.
Respond to your baby
The maximum learning happens by give and take. Say something or just smile and wait for your baby to respond. When your baby responds – say something again. Babies learn very little by listening to lecturing – that means one sided conversation from the parents or a video playing over and over again teaches your baby very little. When you speak to your baby, wait for your baby to respond with a look, a smile or a cooing sound and then go on to say more.
Do not ignore your baby’s cries
Many people will tell you to ignore your baby when she/he cries and there seems to be no real reason for the crying. Which means that if your baby is crying even though it is not time for a feed or a nappy change and your baby is not sick either – you will be asked to ignore your baby’s cries. You will be told that excess attention will ‘spoil’ your baby and that babies must learn to ‘self-soothe’. Do not listen to such advice. Babies cry when they want to reassure themselves that they are safe because you are around. Convey this safety by immediately picking your baby up and holding her/him close. If you don’t soothe your baby’s fears your baby will become more and more afraid and will only cry in panic all the time and will learn nothing from the surroundings.
Sing to your baby
Sing to your baby with your face very close to your baby’s face. This will help your baby to learn how to move the mouth to talk and say various words. Singing will also add to your baby’s vocabulary and help your baby to learn rhyming which will later be very helpful in learning how to read. Additionally singing is soothing and will calm your baby and make her/him feel happy and connected.
Talk to your baby through daily activities
Much of the day is spent changing diapers and clothes when you have a little baby. Make the best use of this time by talking to your baby about it. Say things like “Look I am going to lift you up and put the diaper under you and then I am going to take the right flap and the left flap and stick them in the centre” Can you see how many things you have taught your child by doing this? If you repeat this with every diaper change your baby will know ‘up’ ‘down’ ‘right’ ‘left’ ‘under’ and ‘over’ much before she/he can speak.
Use bath time for ‘math talk’ and ‘science talk’
When you are bathing your baby say “I have one red mug here. Look how small it is. I am filling the mug with water and pouring it on you. And now it is empty” This teaches concepts of mathrmatics and science. It also builds your baby’s vocabulary. It also keeps your baby calm and entertained instead of crying and stressed.
Fill all your interactions with your baby with these nuggets of learning. As your child learns and understands more she/he will become more intelligent and you will enjoy parenting more too.