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What do babies need most after nourishment, warmth and rest?

What do babies need most after nourishment, warmth and rest?

May 1 2016

Answer: ‘Connection’.

Why? Because human beings are born literally hardwired to connect with others.

In stark contrast to the beliefs of even 50 years ago, we now know that right from birth, babies are super social beings. In fact, there is research that suggests we are social beings even before we are born. A study of twins in-utero at 18 weeks gestation showed these babies spent more time interacting more with each other than with the uterine wall!

It turns out the well-known saying, ‘No man is an island’ is scientifically valid. Here are some examples from the research: the biggest predictor of mental health problems is isolation. Which means that when we don't feel socially connected this has health ramifications – and not just on our mental health but our physical health too.

Relationship is the biggest predictor of recovery from serious trauma. It's not how big the trauma is, it's how socially connected you are that predicts what kind of outcome you'll have.

What this means if we have even just one meaningful relationship with another person, we are less likely to suffer from mental illness and more likely to recover from trauma. Social connection sure is powerful. One scientist, Dr. Dean Ornish, has said that if we had a drug that did for our health what love does for our health, it would far outsell any drug that has ever been made.

Other proof of humans inherent ‘social-ness’ comes from a wave of research on babies in recent times. This body of work clearly shows that even very young infants recognise faces, in particular their parents - as well as preferring their parents’ voices and smell - out of hundreds, even thousands of other faces, voices and smells.

Like the study that showed one month old babies could recognise their mothers face out of ten thousand faces played to them on a TV screen. And another that revealed one week old babies not only recognised but were prepared to work hard to keep an image of one of their parents on a TV screen (by sucking on a dummy hooked up to this) rather than look at an image of a stranger.

So what does the fact that young children are highly social beings - and what matters most to them is connection and relationship with the ones who love them - mean for those of us who spend time with and care for them, whether they are our own and/or someone else’s?

It means taking the time to get to know them. It means seeing the world they see. It means respecting their contributions and communications as valid and important. And it means, for our littlest citizens, we should be incredibly fussy about who they spend their days with. Because it is these caregivers who will help grow their social developing brain and prepare them for the future.

Like the Brainwave Trust says, ‘The early years last forever’.

If you’d like to read more, check out this three part series called The Amazing Social Capabilities of Babies on the Brainwave Trust website:

Immerse yourself more in the science around the importance of connection. Contact us now to find out when we are delivering the Growing in Connection course near you.