Chapter 4 : Sleep&Nutrition



Sleep

Sleep is vital to a child's healthy development (Santrock, 2019). A newborn's brain is only 25% weight of the adult brain, and still has an incredible amount of growth to complete before it is fully formed (Santrock, 2019). Sleep is necessary for many processes including clearing out neural tissue waste, improving memory, better reasoning and decision making, increased brain plasticity (Santrock, 2019). When caring for a baby and supporting them in creating positive sleep patterns, it is important to consider elements that get in the way of a child sleeping through the night, such as maternal depression during pregnancy, early introduction of solid foods, TV exposure, childcare attendance (Santrock, 2019, p. 111). If an infant struggles to sleep through the night, one can increase their likelihood of sleeping by making sure that the maternal figure is available and calm during the bedtime routine (Santrock, 2019). Though the safety of sleeping with the child in the bed heavily debated, research agrees that infants sleep better on firm bedding, and that placing the baby on their back in a "supine position" will decrease their chances of passing from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) (Santrock, 2019, p.111-112)



Nutrition

When it comes to feeding a newborn, it has been proven that breastfeeding is associated with many health benefits (Santrock, 2019). Children have less infections (GI tract, respiratory, ear, throat, sinus), and suffer fewer allergies, asthma, obesity, diabetes and SIDS (Santrock, 2019, p.115). Surprisingly, infants need to consume more than twice the number of calories than adults per pound (Santrock, 2019, p. 114). The infant consumes the food from the mother's body, so a healthy diet for the mother is also recommended during the breast-feeding stage. It is suggested to introduce vegetables to a baby's diet at about 4 months old because it varies their nutritional intake, and studies have shown that these children will be less picky later on in life (Santrock, 2019). Once an infant can eat solid foods, it is highly recommended to provide a balanced diet, as excessive sugar and fat intake at this age can have pervasive long-term effects on the child's health and development (Santrock, 2019, p.114).

I strongly believe in a varied yet stable diet. My sister worked in an educational kitchen for middle school students, and she insisted that one's diet is important, but the relationship to that diet emotionally is even more important for their health. Many cultures are now shamed by health media based on the food that they are raised eating, and for the practices that their parents used in feeding the family. The food-guilt/-shame leads to depression, and are incredible deterrents from developing a healthy, empowered relationship later on in life.

I watched a friend in France raise her child and struggle with her own relationship to food. She tried to readapt her lifestyle and change her diet so that her baby could be 'textbook' healthy. The stress of changing her lifestyle impacted her so deeply that she would flip flop between eating vegetables one week and binge eating junk food the next. I would consider this relationship to food even more harmful than maintaining a low level of junk food consistently to keep her sense of security and pleasure in life.


Perceptual development in relation to Nature/Nurture

Perceptual development is the development of our senses; hearing, touch, sight, smell and taste. The nature/nurture debate questions whether traits and behaviors originate from our genetic makeup, or if they stem from the environmental pressures that we experience while growing up. When looking at the nature/nurture question in regards to an infant's perceptual development, it is easy to conclude that once again, development is bidirectional, and that nature and nurture collaborate to affect our development.

Nativists, or nature proponents, believe that our capacity to assess and organize our view of the world is innate (Santrock, 2019, p.133). However, the purely nativist view regarding perceptual development is outdated and no longer credible in developmental psychology (Santrock, 2019). In contrast, empiricists "emphasize learning and experience" (p.133).

According to James and Eleanor Gibson's non-nativist perspective, an essential aspect of understanding perceptual development in an infant is being aware of how they create, process and organize the information in their environment (Santrock, 2019). Piaget had a differing view called the constructionist view, in which development could be compared to a modern-day video game; if the child had not reached certain check points/stages, he esteemed that they would be incapable of accessing the next level (Santrock, 2019, p.133).

Maurer's studies showed a clear relationship between an infants' ability to see and their ability to recognize faces (Santrock, 2019). The age at which sight became accessible was vital to their learning the skills necessary to tell people apart. This suggests that coordination of certain innate senses with the environment at specific periods lead to more successful development. It is a testament to both the necessity of nature to make the learning possible, and the importance of nurture to stimulate the learning process.


Santrock, J. W. (2019). Lifespan development (17th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

© 2016 by Aviva Rose-Williams.

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