The importance of eye contact with babies

babytrendwatcher  oogcontact baby riemersmaDr. Suzanne Zeedyk has been doing 25 years of scientific research and studies about the innate ability of babies to communicate with parents from the very beginning. A science that designers of baby products should know before they develop baby products, says Zeedyk. Zeedyk is fascinated by the emotional development of a child’s very first years and how this affects the long term. It is about the emotional security, confidence and trust in others and relationships. To directly link this to prams and buggy’s: ‘Neuroscience of strollers and buggy’s, how buggy’s shape brains and how this leads to the science of designing for baby’s’, said Zeedyk. Us humans are evolutionary products and we descended from the apes, she says. When wearing a baby as a parent your hands are tied, causing designers and manufacturers to come up with ways to carry and transporting your baby whilst keeping your hands free. Think of the slings, cradle boards thought of by the Indians and later baby carriers, strollers and buggies were introduced. These are all solutions for evolutionary problems.

Infants are naturally social beings, she says, and therefore are capable to communicate from the moment that they are born. A newborn baby succeeds 10 minutes after being born in impersonating a father or mother’s facial impression. Babies also have the ability to imitate hand movements. Babies feel comfortable when they are being communicated with. Oxytocin is produced, a hormone which stimulates confidence and trust. They communicate by eye contact, touching and voice. If there is too little communication with the baby, an increase in cortisol, a stress hormone, is shown. Carrying a baby is more than just moving from A to B! The brain of a baby grows at an explosive rate between zero and three years, but later decreases to a slower rate. In these first years, brain connections are made on an extremely high rate. This first phase is crucial for a child’s development and we need designers of prams, strollers and carriers to keep this in mind, states Zeedyk. Studies show that you cannot start early enough with communicating back and forth. In a particular study, a women daily reads the book ‘Cat in the Hat ” out loud. After birth, the baby recognized the sound and rhythm of the storytelling, measurable by the babies sucking speed on an electric nipple. Other studies show images in which the mother frequently talks to her baby and her baby reacts and communicates back, until the mother stops talking and denies any form of communication. The baby is trying to communicate with its mother, but when that fails, it turns its head away in disappointment. According to Zeedyk, you are able to see after only 16 months that a lack of communication leads to language delay. At the age of three you can even see whether the child will become aggressive or not. This lecture was an eye opener for me! And it’s good to know that eye contact and communication with your baby, especially in the initial phase of his or her life, whether you wear your baby in a baby carrier or transport him or her in a stroller, buggy or car seat, is very important!

This blog has previously been published in our tradejournal BabyWereld and on the consumersite BabyStuf.nl but as it is of great importance, I republish this on my babytrendwatcherblog.

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