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Chaunie Bruisie

A Month-by-Month Guide to Supporting Baby’s Cognitive Development

Support baby’s mental milestones with these smart activities.

While baby’s physical “firsts” are definitely exciting—that first smile! The first coo! Is baby really rolling over already?—some of the most important developments are happening on the inside. Your baby’s mental progress is what drives all of those outward achievements, and just as you encourage them to move and exercise, you can also support each cognitive advancement with a little workout for their mind. Start with a foundation of solid nutrition: Research has shown that DHA and MFGM (milk fat globule membrane), components found in both breast milk and Enfamil’s NeuroPro formula, are important for brain development. Then try specific activities to reinforce baby’s new skills as they learn and grow. Check out the month-by-month rundown of baby’s major mental milestones below, plus easy ways to guide baby as they continue to develop.

0-3 months

Eyes on the Prize Baby is beginning to focus on and follow moving objects. Don’t get worried if baby needs a little practice mastering this skill—you may get a few cross-eyed looks; that’s totally normal in the newborn stage.

Try It Out: Slowly move one of baby’s favorite toys, preferably a brightly colored one, from side to side in front of their face. See if their eyes follow the object. To further support baby’s vision, take a DHA supplement (or get more fish in your diet) while breastfeeding, or choose a formula that has an expert-recommended amount of omega-3 DHA like Enfamil NeuroPro. Studies have shown that DHA is important for visual development, especially during the first two years of life.

Let Me Entertain You As the three-month mark approaches, baby will also begin to express boredom or frustration when you haven’t exposed them to a new activity for some time (we can totally relate). By now, you’ve likely started to distinguish the many meanings behind baby’s cries, so you can add a “bored out of my mind” sound to the list.

Try It Out: Save one or two special toys for when baby is reaching that fussy/bored state. You can also try moving baby to a different location, such as a swing or bouncer, or go for a walk to keep baby mentally and visually stimulated.

3-6 months

Monkey See, Monkey Do Let the games begin! Along with exciting skills such as sitting up and rolling over, baby is learning to mimic expressions and movements from other people. Get ready for lots of big smiles, and even some frowns, as you play together.

Try It Out: Make exaggerated faces and watch as your little one tries to copy you. Engage baby with lots of close talking and smiling—your face is their favorite at the moment.

Somebody’s Watching You During this period, baby is also learning how to respond to affection from those closest to them—if you feel like you’re constantly being watched, that’s because you are. Baby is absorbing information about the world around them based on your reactions too.

Try It Out: Praise baby and show excitement whenever they make a new sound or try out a new movement. Your encouragement means more now than ever before.

6-9 months

People Person Babies love faces, especially those of their parents and caregivers, and they enjoy looking in the mirror and following different expressions. They’re also beginning to know when someone is a stranger.

Try It Out: Let your little one ham it up by providing a baby-safe mirror to play with. Baby will delight in seeing their reflection! For extra fun, pop in behind them and watch their amazement at seeing the two of you.

The World at Large This age is all about exploring the wider world as your little one learns about the space outside their baby bubble and how they can influence it. Reaching, touching and yes, even tasting, everything in their immediate environment becomes baby’s favorite pastime.

Try It Out: Introducing solid food can be a full sensory experience. Let baby get messy and explore food with their mouth and hands and—inevitably—smear it all over their face. Just remember, baby still needs breast milk or formula for the bulk of their nutrition for development. Both breast milk and Enfamil NeuroPro formula have MFGM, a bioactive membrane that surrounds fat droplets, which plays a key role in brain structure and function. In fact, emerging evidence from a clinical study showed MFGM in formula supports cognitive development similar to breast milk.*

9-12 months

Stranger Danger Separation anxiety is setting in—meaning your little one recognizes favorite people and is keenly aware when they leave. They may be wary of new faces or places at this stage.

Try It Out: Be sure to comfort baby when they get scared by a new situation or person. You can also practice “close play” to help baby feel safe by staying nearby as they explore a new place.

Little Bookworm All the vital language skills baby needs throughout life are well on their way to being established at this age, due in part to the brain-building nutrition you’ve given them throughout the first year.

Try It Out: Reading to baby is a good idea even from birth, but this time frame is especially important for supporting baby’s language development. Work on establishing critical connections by describing objects on the page like, “Look at this blue block” or “Here is the yellow ball.” Before long, your little one will amaze you with another milestone that will really take your relationship to the next level: talking!

*As measured by Bayley-III cognitive score at 12 months in a different formula with MFGM added as an ingredient.

This article is sponsored by Enfamil NeuroPro. Get more ideas for how to support baby’s cognitive development on The Bump, or join Enfamil Family Beginnings for free gifts and more.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.