An incredibly interesting article on The Daily Beast explores new thoughts on memory and the baby brain. I, like everyone else, always heard memories were not formed until at least 3, but it turns out some of the most important memories your baby will have happen in the earliest days.
The first smells your baby encounters will be her favorites as a toddler. Even teaching a baby a trick, repeatedly, can be remembered for months.
Amazing. And ... yikes. You see, there are a few mistakes I made in those early baby days that I'd rather neither child remembers.
Like say, taking my 6-week-old out to the park and laying him in the sun because it was such a beautiful, sunny spring day. That part was okay. What wasn't was when I took off his hat and realized he had a perfect circle of a sunburned face.
My daughter has a permanent reminder of her first mom-inflicted injury during a toenail clipping gone awry when she was only 3 months old. Her pinkie toenail STILL hasn't grown back from where I accidentally cut it all off and an infection followed. At age 4, she loves to remind me of the damage I caused to her littlest toe.
But hey, at least I didn't drop her, like her father did.
Nope, I don't really want painful physical memories to last, especially the ones at the hands of mom.
Luckily, that's not exactly how it works.
The thrust of this new information tells us that memories are simply not processed with the same parts of the brain in babies as they are in adults or older children. Babies remember what they need to remember, which is a very different need than when they are older, and also have developed language. Additionally, the key to a longer term memory in a baby is a repetitive action. Unless you're dropping your baby every day (and if you are, you may need someone to check your equilibrium), she won't remember waking up terrified and in pain.
While babies won't remember specific instances (or at least be able to verbalize those specific instances because they are pre-verbal when it happens, so they wouldn't know the word "crying" or "hurt"), the most important memories do occur in the early years. The unconscious, emotional memories of our first years of life shape us forever.
Repeatedly showing your baby he is taken care of and loved are the crucial memories to instill for lifelong emotional health. His freak-out in the bathtub when you turned around to get the towel and he fell in face first, luckily, is not.
Are there any memories you hope your baby forgets?
Image via titlap/Flickr