Cognitive development – birth to four months

From birth to four months, baby’s thinking brain will start to take over some of what baby can do, which means baby becomes more in control of some actions.


Baby knows how to watch and react. Over the next year the pathways in baby’s brain will grow quickly, and so will baby’s mental skills.

Breastfeed baby for a full 12 months if safe and possible because:

  • baby needs good nutrition to wire up the brain
  • it has nutrients that could help baby’s intelligence grow.

Be responsive and spend one-on-one time with baby because:

  • doing things together, like reading a story, helps baby learn to pay attention
  • baby sometimes cries out of boredom, and wants others to respond to their cooing and babbling, and entertain them with facial expressions.


Baby carries memories out of the womb like mum’s voice and heartbeat, which can last for weeks.

The lower parts of baby’s brain store information but baby is not aware of their memories, which only last a short time.

Through the senses baby gains more simple memory skills that pave the way for learning.

Change over toys and books when baby seems bored because:

  • baby needs new experiences to feed the brain
  • this helps baby to learn what is old and same and new and different, building memory skills.
Published — 20 February 2019 Last updated — 11 March 2019

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