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Pediatrician: One-on-one interaction critical in baby's first years

HASTINGS -- There are many different sources of information for parents about developmental milestones for children. Most have long lists of behaviors for specific ages, such as recognizing certain words and things like "will look at self in mirror" and "likes certain colors."

The sheer volume of developmental information can be confusing and overwhelming. Some parents tend to pay too much attention to these lists, said Sanaya Bharucha, M.D., a pediatrician at Allina Medical Clinic - Hastings.

"I want parents to focus on how babies get their start, through touch, talk and connection," Bharucha said. "Nurturing touch from caregivers is an irreplaceable first step in promoting healthy development."

Good nutrition, from breast feeding if possible, sets the stage for development, Bharucha said.

Bharucha said well-child visits are the best way to make sure things are on track, giving the pediatrician a full picture of how the child is doing. "Development will vary from month to month and from child to child," she said. "It depends upon whether they were premature, their environment and other factors."

"If there are concerns, parents generally will pick them up soonest," Bharucha said. "Don't feel shy about mentioning any concerns or questions you may have. After all, parents know their children the best."

Bharucha emphasized the importance of one-on-one interaction with children, due to the rapid changes that occur in the brain during the first five years of life. "You can change a child's IQ and their whole future though interaction," she said. "Parents are the most important teachers."

There are two key developmental milestones that deserve special attention:

  • A "social smile" by 6 months of age (if it is lacking, doctors may be concerned about autism or even vision problems)
  • Walking, or at least making strides toward walking, by 16 months.

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