The environment in which unborn babies, infants and toddlers grow up has a significant impact on their physical, social, emotional and cognitive development over their entire life course. The structure of unborn children’s brains is strongly influenced by prolonged exposure to alcohol, cigarette smoke, harmful drugs, poor nutrition and high levels of stress hormones encountered in the womb.
The relationships babies and toddlers develop (or do not develop) with key individuals in their early lives further affect their neural development. A young child is dependent on regular positive interactions with parents and co-parents to develop secure attachments, and to promote all aspects of his/her development. These interactions are as crucial for children’s development as having their needs for food, warmth and cleanliness met. This is one reason why breastfeeding, which involves such a close relationship between a mother and her baby, offers an excellent start in life.
Children who have been exposed to early emotional and physical neglect very often show signs of significant social and emotional problems as they grow up and enter adulthood. Current research therefore strongly supports the case for ensuring that every child’s earliest relationships nurture the resilience that is essential to his or her wellbeing and happiness over the life course.
The International Journal of Birth and Parent Education aims to present current knowledge about the impact of early parenting and to offer best practice guidelines for working with new families. The Journal’s readers are the knowledge-users who support mothers, fathers and co-parents so that they, in turn, can provide a nurturing environment for their children from conception to two years, the period which has been aptly named ‘The 1000 Critical Days’.