What signs should I look for as my baby develops?

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What are the earliest signs of intelligence in infants?

I know how smart babies are because I observe intelligent signs and behaviors of newborns and infants every day as a professional home visitor and developmental specialist! Here is the first sign: newborns are programmed to be alert and aware of their mental and physical experiences and they are born equipped with a range of reflexes to act as first year helpers and physical and emotional body guards, both in the womb and into the first seven months of life and sometimes longer.

Reflexes do some of the work but newborns go even further to show how smart they are! The second sign: newborns are prewired to engage both sides of their bodies and brains both in and out of the womb, to take into their brains a constant stream of early experiences, stimulated by mental and physical actions and activities of everyday life. It makes no difference if the infant is awake or asleep, movement continues, eye blinks, tongue thrust, winks and nods, chin lift or sound of crying, listening, babbling, in motion, awake or resting, or in an alert state, the body learns through experience to take in many experiences and store them for future use!

Next, infants’ 2-sided body and both sides of the brain can do more with less because of the many additional connections that pass between each side of the body and brain and give and take from each other! Consider an infant a sponge, a colorful unique explorer and trained orderly player! Infants are curious by nature of the movement and attraction to sensory stimuli! Remember, the brain absorbs and stores sights, sounds, touch and all the openings such as mouth, eyes shut, eyes open, fingers, fists, toes and legs come in handy as tools to teach themselves the ways of the world and how the world works! They are self-taught teachers and producers of their own development to a very much more accepted degree! The combination of body awareness and the infant‘s desire and innate drive to use both sides of the body is the core of mental intelligence and adaption to new experiences. Body awareness provides automatic feedback that tells the infant it is time to use a full range of vocal expression (crying, shuddering, and wailing.)

The eyes, chin, skin, nose, mouth, gums and arms all respond to freedom of movement as the infant calms when held and swaddled. Alert to dramatic changes of air and light and temperature babies sigh, snuggle, suck and move all in a matter of minutes unless in a deep sleep and even then the eyes may be shut but the infant may be drowsy or awake.

Other impressive effects of awareness in their environments and surroundings are crying, gasping, hiccupping and alertness to changes of light, air, and temperature. Head movements alternating and rotating and finger and toe flexion are seen in infants only a few hours old as they become alert and then shut out excess light and other stimuli. Sounds of speech ad more and social play occur right away as newborns turn to sounds, startle, blink, nod, wriggle and move constantly unless in deep sleep.

Infants are born making sounds such as gasping for air and uttering throaty guttural noises, hiccupping, gesturing, crying and yelling to communicate with people, places and the environment from the moment of birth and before. Even in the second half of the firs year infants form the speech sounds that make words that come later in the second year.

Infants work their tongue along the roof of the mouth, thrust the tongue out and in for practice. Born with a set of tools and reflexes, infants are in ceaseless motion even when they seem to be asleep, even when they look completely at rest, they are listening and moving with the help of those reflexive built-in traits.

Infants are born learners! Babies cannot stay alive without attention, touch and  sucking sources. They cannot be left alone except in deep sleep, which is 12-16 hours a day…the rest of the time they are pretending and learning the sounds of their language! And what does that tell you? Infants do think! They think with amazing information called sensory stimulation.

Ask Dr. Susan