Of all the animals in the animal kingdom, humans are one of the only animals born with a highly underdeveloped brain, which develops after birth. Therefore, creating a warm and loving environment for your baby that is as safe and secure as the womb, will nurture your baby’s brain as it matures. For example, studies show that babies who are deprived of social and emotional interactions may fail to thrive, and may have developmental delays, ADD & ADHD, and other behavioral and neurological deficits.

On the other hand, in my experience working as a researcher and human behavior expert, with a Ph.D. in Psychology and Doctorate of Education, I have witnessed that an environment filled with warmth and stimulation inspires the genes to reach their fullest potential, strengthening neural-connections, while helping your child adapt to his/her environment.

Actually, every physical experience, including bonding and touch, has the potential to biologically impact your child’s brain development. And it is at this early stage of development, that neural-pathways grow. How they grow, often will be determined by their environment. Nurturing, bonding, and touch are the very behaviors that, in particular, help determine your baby’s development.

Well-Bonded Equals Healthy Well-Being

For example, cuddling, caring, and paying attention, can help create a well-bonded child, and that well-bonded child often becomes secure, with a good sense of self, simply through the positive social interactions of mother and father. I’ve seen it time and time again in my research. Though it goes without saying that baby’s physical needs must be addressed, and they must have a safe environment in which to grow, I believe it is your baby’s sense of well-being that promotes healthy brain maturation.

It is through the day-to-day activities of caring for your child, that you have the greatest opportunity to influence your child’s brain growth. Eye contact, talking, kissing, hugging, rocking, cuddling, and holding, all contribute to the verbal and non-verbal cues that your baby learns to recognize, express, and imitate. And all the while your child is digesting and associating information to build a foundation — not only for language and relationships, but also for ideas and creativity.

In these first years of life, your baby is not only building language and communication skills, but also his or her personality. It is here that I believe we can intervene and help a genetically predisposed shy child, for example, to become more socially confident. It doesn’t take a village, it takes a family… observant and involved parents. And it is those family core connections that can foster both optimistic and competent growth in your child.

In Part 3 of Your Baby’s Brain, we’ll take a look at the windows of opportunity, when your child’s brain may be more susceptible to environmental influences.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com. Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.