How important is the first year of life?

Every baby’s milestone in their first year of life is exciting for every parent.  As a parent, I am always waiting for my baby to reach a milestone. This purpose led me to research about the baby’s first year of life. I learned that there are more baby’s milestone in the first year, and they are extremely important.

How important is the first year of life? It is when the brain develops most rapidly with a window of opportunity for great emotional and cognitive development. Physical growth and development help improve mental and emotional capability. Additionally, positive experiences establish a sense of security to learn about their new world.

Baby’s development in their first year serves as the foundation for their overall well- being. Knowledge of what actions parents must do in the baby’s first year, making the period more beneficial. This article will help you gain insights about the baby’s needs and how to address them. 

Body and Brain at Work 

The most critical brain development happened in the first year of life. The brain growth of babies less than a year old is already 80% of its adult size. Cerebellum, the visual cortex, and the limbic system are parts of the brain that develop fast.

The cerebellum is in charge of motor skills and physical development.  It allows babies to move their heads, grasp things, crawl then stand up. The visual cortex, which helps us see, enables babies to recognize faces. The limbic system allows babies to express, and later, control emotions.

Additionally, the brain neurons are its highest quantity at birth. These neurons are being connected while the baby is growing. Positive experience and formed attachments help the neurons to make neural connections stronger.

Stress can be detrimental to a baby’s development. It can kill brain cells and disrupt the cell connection to the other regions of the brain. Prolonged stress can harm vital brain circuits and can even reduce the size of the brain.

Rapid physical development also happens in the baby’s first year. There is a significant increase in weight and length. For some babies, teeth begin to show.   

Their bones, which are soft tissues when they are born, start to fuse and become stronger. Calcium from breast milk or formula milk helps the formation. Their brain begins to signal the other part of the body to roll over or crawl, and stronger bones allow them to do those milestones.  

Physical growth, emotional and cognitive development are interconnected. A baby cannot explore their surroundings if they are lagging physically. Lack of emotional bond with parents can result in a decreased mental capability.  The three must develop together, and every parent must make sure it happens.

The First Year Milestones

Parents always document their baby’s milestone.  It never fails to go to the parent’s Facebook wall or their photo albums. It is also a way to track their changes. To make sure that they are growing according to the prescribed developmental milestone.

According to experts, babies can focus on objects in their first month. They can distinguish between colors in the third month. Their first word is in their seventh month. They can sit in their eighth month and walk in their first year

These milestones initiate learning opportunities, developing their mental, emotional and physical development. It is the time where their first experiences can leave a positive or negative impact.  Positive and stimulating experiences must be present in every baby’s milestones.

Experts emphasize that each baby develops at their own pace. It does not mean that advanced babies are more superior to the late ones. Although, parents need to consult pediatricians if their babies are lagging than usual. 

Physical Growth and Development

Babies growth and physical development vary. The activities babies participated in can affect physical development.  As well as heredity and the amount of attention the baby gets.

The activity the baby participates in is crucial for its continuing growth. Their muscles develop if they are not restricted to move. Their bones get stronger when they use their arms, legs and feet to explore their space.

Proper nutrition can balance heredity. We all know the importance of breastfeeding. Smaller babies because of heredity can be very healthy due to breastfeeding. 

Babies who get enough attention are braver to try physical activities. They are more likely to crawl on their father who got home. They love to show their baby dancing skills to their grandparents, who are fond of watching them. Good thing, it is not hard to love babies.

As the baby’s body grows, its movement improves. Their manoeuvres need constant guidance. Parents must always be present, both for emotional bonding and safety of the baby.

Positive Experiences for Emotional Development

Emotional bonding between a parent and a baby develops emotional intelligence. Dependency on the mother is an instinct for babies because they think their mother is a part of them. Mother’s have a choice. They can either nurture or neglect their babies.

The choices mothers make are crucial to the development of a baby’s proper emotion. A mother who is nurturing and attentive teaches her baby how to calm themselves down. Babies learn to communicate better as their mother attends to their needs. These also develop a sense of security which an essential feeling every baby must have. 

Sense of security makes babies grab all the learning opportunities presented to them. It makes them brave enough to try and fail because there is someone who will always support them.

Babies who suffer from neglect and absence of a mother or a caregiver can feel it and might grow up resentful. They will not be able to trust other people as they do not feel secure when they are born. There are also no positive stimulants or experience for learning opportunities.

Best Time for Cognitive Development

Physical growth and development coincide with cognitive development. Cognitive development is the development of knowledge, skills, problem solving and disposition. It helps children to think about and understand the world around them. Parents’ constant guidance and care can boost it. 

Study shows that the hippocampus is ten percent bigger for those babies who were nurtured early rather than those who were not. Hippocampus is a part of the limbic system that plays a vital role in processing the short-term, long term, and spatial memory

Babies grow physically to allow them to explore their new surroundings. They must be free from any kind of hindrance. Babies must be allowed to use their limbs to explore as their senses feel their new home. This develops their sense of individuality and natural curiosity.

Language skills are also best exposed at this period. You can talk in a complete sentence and proper grammar, even though your baby might not understand it. This teaches context. It helps babies draw connections between words and concepts.

It is exciting whenever we see babies making discoveries. Always encourage them to continue what they started. However, always make sure that they can see that parents are still there for them.

Social Development Starts Early

Social Development begins when a baby makes eye-contact and smiles voluntarily. Through this, they are trying to connect to their parents or caregivers. They build relationships with them. They are also building trust in someone who fulfils their needs.

Developing positive social interaction is closely related to emotional development. Babies need to receive nurturing, basic needs and consistent interaction. The emotional attachment they also get results in positive social development.

The child’s behavior as they grow up mirrors their parent’s behavior and reaction.  Babies can also feel the emotions of the people around them.  Parents need to be very careful about how they handle their feelings in front of their babies.

We don’t want our babies to grow up in a chaotic and unhealthy environment. Parents must shower babies love and affection. The affection they get is the same affection they will be able to give to others. 

Parents’ Presence is Crucial

The first year of a baby’s life is very fragile. It needs thorough understanding and involves a lot of effort. Parents can try different techniques to develop the necessary skills. But the constant presence of parents can make a huge difference.

Related Questions

Are genes essential in brain development of a newborn? Genes are an essential part of brain development. Take, for example, language learning. Naturally, the brain recognizes speech. Further, the environment plays a role in expanding a baby’s vocabulary, proper grammar, and accent. Together, both genes and environment are essential.

How different is the development of boys and girls in their first year? There are subtle differences. Their brain reacts differently to the human voice. Girls tend to be more advanced in sensory and cognitive development. Boys are more inclined to visual-spatial integration. These are navigation,  assembling jigsaw puzzles and particular types of hand-eye coordination although it will show more in their third year.


baby, brain, Child development, milestones, Parenting, physical growth


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