Advancing the Science of Healthy Baby DevelopmentTM

EXPLORING THE SCIENCE OF THE SENSES™ IN HEALTHY BABY DEVELOPMENT

A strong body of foundational and emerging research suggests that multisensorial stimulation—or the concurrent stimulation of tactile, olfactory, auditory, and/or visual stimuli—benefits the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development of babies. Multisensorial stimulation occurs when there is convergence of stimuli from different sensory inputs into the brain allowing integration and establishment of a relationship between these different sensory inputs.1

The World Health Organization states that the environment in which a child grows up has a profound impact on sculpting the brain.2 A baby’s brain creates up to 1.8 million new synaptic connections per second and a baby’s experiences will determine which synapses will be preserved.3 Multisensorial stimulation—what a baby feels, sees, hears, and smells— will help to promote the long-term survival of synaptic connections during brain development.3 The World Health Organization believes babies need stimulation and care in order to grow and develop.2 Sensory stimulation is particularly essential early in development; within the first 3 years of life, there is rapid development of most of the brain’s neural pathways supporting communication, social development, understanding, and emotional well-being.2 Multisensorial stimulation has been shown to enhance brain development3,4 and thus aids in overall healthy baby development. Stimulating multiple senses sends signals to the brain that strengthen the neural processes for learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through consistent multisensorial experiences, research also shows that babies gain healthy developmental benefits, such as reduced stress in healthy and preterm infants 6,7 as well as faster progression to nipple feeding, which led to earlier hospital discharge in preterm infants.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyday Rituals such as bath time are ideal opportunities for incorporating multisensorial stimulation.

Everyday experiences in a baby’s life can develop and stimulate his or her senses and provide parents an opportunity to nurture their baby’s ability to learn, think, love, and grow. A simple ritual of bath time and massage is an ideal opportunity to create a multisensory experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bath time ritual of bath and massage is a simple behavioral intervention that increases quantity of sleep in babies, and the multisensorial stimulation benefits led to a predictable and less stressful environment for babies and parents.9

Better quality and quantity of sleep in healthy babies9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A ritual that includes a warm bath followed by massage with a gentle skin moisturizer and quiet activities is a scientifically supported and simple behavioural intervention for improved quality and quantity of sleep in babies, and the multisensorial stimulation benefits led to a predictable and less stressful environment for babies and parents. 9

Encouraging Parents to view bath time and massage as opportunities for multisensorial stimulation can contribute to overall healthy baby development.

Although science has made advances in understanding the long-term benefits of multisensorial stimulation, there is more to be done to translate this research into everyday practice.

It is understood that the environment in which a child grows up has a profound impact on sculpting the brain. In order to grow and develop, babies need stimulation and care. Everyday experiences in a baby’s life impact the development and stimulation of their senses.

Multisensorial stimulation is scientifically shown to support the healthy development of preterm and full term babies. Rituals such as bath time and massage are ideal opportunities for parents to create enriched multisensorial experiences.

By encouraging parents to view the bath time ritual as an opportunity for multisensorial stimulation, lasting experiences can be created, contributing to overall healthy baby development.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources for Parent Education:

Poster: Power of Touch

Poster: Power of Smell

 

References:

  1. Clemo HR, Keniston LP, Merideith MA. Structural Basis of Multisensory Processing: Convergence. In: Murray MM, Wallace MT, editors. The Neural Basis of Multisensory Processes. 2012;1-8.
  2. World Health Organization. Integrating Early Childhood Development (ECD) activities into Nutrition Programmes in Emergencies. Why, What and How. 2014;1-16.
  3. Eliot L. What’s Going On in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life. New York, NY: Bantam Books; 1999.
  4. Winter P. Early Childhood Services, Department of Education and Children Services, South Australia. Engaging Families in the Early Childhood Development Story. Neuroscience and early childhood development: Summary of selected literature and key messages for parenting. 2010:1-50.
  5. Bruner. Early Learning Left Out: An Examination of Public Investments in Education and Development by Child Age Voices for America's Children (2004). 2004;1: 1-39
  6. Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Field T. Preterm infants show reduced stress behaviors and activity after 5 days of massage therapy.Infant Behav Dev. 2007;30(4):557-561.
  7. Field T, Cullen C, Largie S, et al. Lavender bath oil reduces stress and crying and enhances sleep in very young infants. Early Hum Dev. 2008;84(6):399-401.
  8. White-Traut RC, Nelson MN, Silvestri JM, et al. Effect of auditory, tactile, visual, and vestibular intervention on length of stay, alertness, and feeding progression in preterm infants. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2002;44:91-97.
  9. Mindell J, Lorena S, Telofski BA, et al. A nightly bedtime routine: impact on sleep in young children and maternal mood. Sleep. 2009;23:599-606.