Neurodevelopment in a baby starts at a very early age. Dr Helen Chen, Dr Theresa Lee and Ms Ong Li Lian, all from the Department of Psychological Medicine at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), explain more.
Article contributed by Adj Assoc Prof Helen Chen, Head and Senior Consultant,
Dr Theresa Lee, Senior Consultant and Ms Ong Li Lian, Senior Clinical Counsellor, all from the
Department of Psychological Medicine at
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the
The relationship between you and your baby starts right in the womb, and lays the foundation to your child’s physical, emotional and social development. Apart from good nutrition and stimulation, a secure attachment is key to ensuring your baby grows healthily.
Studies have shown that early caregiving determines attachment patterns that last a lifetime, and these in turn will influence your child’s self-esteem and social functioning. The good thing is, you don’t need to be perfect, and it’s okay to sometimes get it wrong. All you need to do is to be a good enough mother, and to repair any breaks that can sometimes happen on a rough day.
To help you better understand your own emotional needs as a new mother, and the needs of your baby, here are some nudges that can help you nurture your baby’s development through the different stages until your baby reaches toddlerhood.
Neurodevelopment milestones to be aware of
“I’m pregnant but I’m not fully prepared.”
Feeling unsure or ambivalent about your pregnancy is not uncommon, and doesn’t mean you will be a bad mother.
Talk to someone you trust about these feelings, and it can really help bring some relief. If you have been feeling low in mood or have loss of interest in things you used to enjoy for most days of the past month, you may be experiencing antenatal depression – do check in with your doctor about this.
Term (at 37 weeks)
Baby’s almost here – it’s normal to feel excited yet nervous about the delivery. Talk to your doctor if you feel anxious about labour pain as there are different options to help you cope.
Discuss your birthing plan with your obstetrician as best you can, but don’t feel too disappointed if things change because the delivery experience can be unpredictable.
One in three deliveries require surgery or assistance - and you haven’t failed if you can’t deliver naturally.
Third day after delivery
You may feel exhausted and overwhelmed, or still surging with excitement. It is ok if you feel a little off balance because of all that has happened in the last week.
Your body is sore, and breastfeeding can really be challenging for a first-time mother. Be gentle with yourself, and allow yourself time to adjust to all that is happening.
It is quite natural to feel emotional and unsure of yourself – motherhood transition takes time.
Two weeks after delivery
In these initial weeks, take time to wonder at your baby – it can help you feel more confident as you get to know and understand your baby.
Baby is actually born with the ability to recognise your smell and voice, and feels secure when you hold him/her snugly. The sound of your heartbeat is also a familiar source of comfort.
And when you feed your baby, look into his/her eyes – because this is just what he/she needs to build the attachment strongly with you. And you’ll find your feelings stir and grow deeply over time, if you haven’t already felt it because you have been so tired.
One month after delivery
Congratulations! You made it to the first month! Remember to give yourself a pat, and a good rest, especially if your family celebrates this moment in a big fashion!
You might feel slightly disappointed that baby still feels so defenseless and utterly dependent on you. Going into the second month, baby will be more wakeful and easily stimulated as he/she is learning so much. Don’t compare yourself to the confinement nanny – experience does matter, and everyone starts off having her first baby.
Just take it one day at a time, and don’t worry too much about finding a settled routine. Baby and you will get there in time.
One and a half months (six weeks) after delivery
This is probably the most challenging time for new mothers.
Your confinement help must have ceased, and your body is supposed to be fully recovered by now. But baby is wakeful, increasingly curious about his/her world, and too easily overstimulated, and easily fretful.
Babies often go through periods of feeding a lot, then sleeping a lot during which the growth spurts occur. Their cycles seem so erratic and this is likely to make you feel as unsettled as your baby. Sometimes, this manifests as infant colic, or fussiness.
Keep calm as much as you can, take a break whenever you need to, or once you have placed baby safely in the cot, or with your partner or family.
This phase will pass in time – just take one day at a time. Your efforts will add up, even if it does not seem to be helping right away.
If you are experiencing difficulties coping with your emotions, especially if you feel low in mood persistently, or have little interest in activities, or feel constantly anxious and unsettled, do check in with your doctor to see if a referral for help is needed.
neurodevelopment milestones in babies beyond six weeks old, read on.