To read a version of this post in Spanish click here.
Do you remember a time when you had a lesson about the five senses at school?
During the observations that I frequently perform at childcare centers, I have seen how the teachers introduce the topic of the human body while stimulating the five senses. For example, they have used materials such as perfumes, musical instruments, and different flavored food samples, among others, to create hands-on activities about each sense. But why wait until the school year starts to stimulate the senses when you can do it as early as birth? Or even before birth?
Early stimulation promotes the development of millions of brain connections called synapses. As the baby’s brain continues to fire synapses, these electrical pathways establish the brain’s architecture and the foundation for future learning.
Besides meeting the physiological needs of an infant and strengthening their immune system, breastfeeding can promote the emotional intelligence of an infant and allows the mom to stimulate the five senses throughout the various areas of development. These areas include cognitive development, language development, physical development, and social-emotional development.
The breastfeeding time for moms is crucially important to promote the “serve and return” interactions between mother and baby. When your child naturally reaches out for interactions such as looking at your face, babbling, and moving their body you can respond with the same kind of vocalizing and gesturing back-and-forth. These responsive interactions, which can take many forms, matter significantly for early learning and development.
Next, I would like to share some effective tips with you on how to increase early stimulation during breastfeeding while using the five senses. You can create an emotional bond with your little one that would last a lifetime.
Breastmilk tastes like mom. It has many nutrients and a perfect temperature. While you breastfeed your baby, you can talk to him/her about the tasting experience while you describe your actions. You can say: “You are tasting your mom’s milk, it is sweet, it is warm, and I am giving you all my love through it. Mommy’s love helps you grow healthy and smart.” By breastfeeding, you can create a unique bond with your child while nourishing their social-emotional development at an early stage.
Touch therapy is very important during the first months of life. Caress your baby, touch his feet, his arms, and his face. Massage him from head to toes while you name all the parts of his body. For example, you could say: “I am massaging your toes, you have five toes on each foot, we need our feet to walk, you will walk soon, etc.” There is always an opportunity to work on language development while you interact with your little one during breastfeeding. Additionally, when your baby touches your chest with his hand, he feels safe and loved.
This sense starts developing before birth when the baby listens to the mom’s heartbeat and other environmental sounds. While you breastfeed your little one, you could sing to him, imitate nature and animal sounds, change the tone of your voice, and of course, you may express how much you love him and enjoy the breastfeeding experience. You may say, “I love to have you in my arms. And I am glad that you are enjoying your milk. I love you, you are a happy, healthy and a beautiful child.” By doing so, you will be promoting your child’s emotional intelligence and neuro-linguistic development. Remember, attachment is crucial during the first months of life. You need to create a relationship based on trust between you and your child.
Your little one can identify your face when you are breastfeeding him. Make eye contact while you are holding him and talk to him. You can make various facial expressions to describe feelings. You could also describe your surroundings while you narrate your actions. “Are you looking for my eyes? I can move my eyes, from left to right. I am looking up to the ceiling and down at your beautiful eyes.” Or, “Look at my mouth, I can simulate a fish mouth. I am moving my nose, like the bunnies.” You could even play silly games as they get older such as “Peek-a-Boo” before and after breastfeeding.
Your baby can sense your personal smell and be calmed by it. While you breastfeed, you can talk about the senses of the environment and describe them to your little one. For example, you could say: “Mommy made coffee this morning, the kitchen smells like coffee. Daddy is home, I can smell his cologne. I can smell you; you smell like a baby.” But if he/she gives you a surprise, you can also say with a silly voice, “I am smelling something different, I think you have a present for me under your diaper. Your body is moving,” etc.
Finally, even though some misinformed people might make negative comments about breastfeeding in general or breastfeeding your baby beyond six months, do not be concerned about them. You are making the right choice.
Breastfeeding is a perfect choice. The benefits of creating that special and unique bond with your baby are unlimited.
Personally, I still treasure my breastfeeding experience (when I was 18). My daughter is 23 years old now and we still maintain that unique bond that we created during the first months of her life. Don’t be afraid. It may be a little painful in the beginning, but it will be worth it. Your age is not a factor, it does not matter if you are still a very young mom or if you are in your forties.
This month of August is dedicated to creating awareness about the importance of breastfeeding worldwide. To obtain more information, visit the World Breastfeeding Week website.
Thank you for joining us on this wonderful journey of being a mom. I invite you to share your breastfeeding techniques with other moms in the comments below.
With love and gratitude,