Baby Health and Wellbeing
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How to Help Your Child’s Health, Development and Wellbeing
The beginning years of a child’s development are the foundation for future health and wellbeing. Giving your child the best start will offer them the chance to have a fulfilling life.
A sense of wellbeing does not necessarily mean feeling happy all the time or being free of illness. Physical, social and emotional factors all play an important role. A comprehensive picture of the factors that influence health and wellbeing includes early learning and education, community and family environments and a sense of security and safety.
Being able to control emotions is also important for your child’s wellbeing. Your baby will communicate when their physical and social needs are not being met and crying is the usual manner! As they develop, they will learn to take care of their own needs as they are taught how to wash hands, drink from a cup and feed themselves. Children with a strong sense of wellbeing are more likely to be confident and involved learners. Health and wellbeing starts from birth and continues throughout their childhood development.
5 Tips for building Health & Wellbeing:
- Provide a large amount of love and affection – both physical and emotional. Hugs and laughs are at the top of the list. This will provide a sense of security and confidence to try new things and express how they are feeling.
- Massage can help your newborn to sleep better, improve health and strengthen your bond. Massage stimulates your baby’s central nervous system, which makes their brain produce more serotonin (a feel-good chemical) and less cortisol (a hormone that’s secreted in response to stress). Your baby’s heart rate and breathing slows down, and they become more relaxed.
- Respond to your baby’s smiles, playing peek-a-boo, talk to them when changing nappies, converse in the way you would if you were expecting a response – asking questions and listening for a response.
- Help to cultivate their motor skills, using clapping and bouncing games to promote their interest.
- Offer your baby a wide range of healthy foods and give them some choice in which ones they will eat.
Your baby’s wellbeing is paramount and if for any reason you have concerns about your child’s physical development, mental health or social development, talk to your maternal and child health nurse, doctor or early childhood professional about any concerns you have – as these should be addressed early.
Future social and emotional wellbeing comes from babies feeling safe, secure and valued. Constantly interacting with your baby will build a sense of belonging. Babies do a lot of checking where you are and what you are doing, thus indicating their comfort level. You are their reference point for their wellbeing. When you respond to their needs and show them you care, they feel secure. The main signal that a baby has a sense of wellbeing is that they are comfortable and relaxed and will engage with you.
Things happen in the most caring of environments that cause some stress and distress. It is part of living. These events give babies a chance to learn how to manage their feelings. Given the opportunity, they begin to self soothe, wait and tolerate some frustration, with a lot of help from adults to regulate their emotions. It is through these relationships with adults that babies learn about themselves. They learn they are valuable, worth caring about and if they need something, someone will help them. This really adds to their overall wellbeing.
Research shows that when babies are being cared for by people who don’t know them well, it can create a stressful environment for them. This means they need to work harder to communicate what they need. Babies’ social and emotional wellbeing comes from their secure relationships. This starts from birth and when attended to, gradually they become more relaxed. They become more confident, knowing there will be a response when they vocalise, and they will receive comfort when they are upset.
It is vital for new parents to set up support networks, both in their local community, and with maternal health professionals. It is important they do not feel isolated when things are not going to plan. New parents can feel anxious about whether they are doing the right thing, and may need the reassurance of someone to talk with who can confirm they are doing the ultimate in providing the best health and wellbeing environment for their new baby. If you feel this way, then make sure you seek out the help you need. Being a new parent is a new experience that a lot of people go through, and there’s always help and support out there if you need it.