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Doing this simple activity with your newborn can help brain development

MADISON — Just before parents leave the hospital with their newborn for the first time, doctors go through a list of discharge instructions: guidelines for how to keep baby healthy and safe. As families return to pediatricians for regular wellness checks, there’s still one topic that many pediatricians never address but one physician-scientist says it should get top billing.

Twenty-two-month-old Miles Cleary is the baby of his family. Mom, Danielle, has listened to discharge instructions five times. Things like how to feed the baby, use a car seat properly, and recognize signs of illness. There’s one thing that Danielle doesn’t ever remember hearing: talk and read to your baby.

“That was never in my mind until they were older,” Danielle told Ivanhoe.

Dana Suskind, MD, is a pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeon and co-director of the TMW Center for Early Learning in Public Health at the University of Chicago.

“The science is so clear that the first thousand days are critically important for brain development, and at the heart of that is parent talk and interaction,” detailed Dr. Suskind.

However, parents may not be getting that information. A recent survey found most early well-child visits focused on feeding and baby’s weight. Few parents received information on brain development or learning. Dr. Suskind and her colleagues say med students should learn behavior-changing strategies to share with parents. At the TMW Center, researchers advocate the three T’s.

“Those three T’s tune in, talk more, and take turns are really the keys for providing a rich language environment and growing a baby’s brain,” explained Dr. Suskind.

Talk, read, and sing from day one. These are parental interactions that will help grow your child’s brain.

Dr. Suskind said there are other effective evidence-based programs, like Too Small to Fail, Healthy Steps, Vroom, and Reach Out and Read, in which pediatricians use books to demonstrate parent-child interactions.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Kevin Boughton

Senior executive producer, 27 News

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