Imagine knowing in the first few weeks of your baby's life how she likes to be held, if she can tolerate loud noises, and whether she can distinguish human faces.
According to the research behind the Brazelton Scale, you can know all this and more about your newborn.
What Is the Brazelton Scale?
Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and Dr. Kevin Nugent, director of The Brazelton Institute, Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, published The Brazelton Scale in 1973. The scale is designed to reveal an infant's strengths and preferences, so that parents may have a better understanding of their newborn's capabilities.
The scale contains 28 behavioral and 18 reflex items for parents and doctors to assess. It also reviews a baby's capabilities in several different developmental areas: autonomic, motor, state regulation, and social-interactive systems. The result is not a score, but instead an understanding of how infants integrate these areas as they adapt to their new environment.
How It Works
The Brazelton Scale, also known as the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS), examines a wide range of behaviors in infants from birth to 2 months of age. The premise of the scale is that babies are born ready to communicate. They may not use words, but their body movements, cries, and visual responses are their way of speaking. And the Brazelton Scale helps parents and caregivers understand just what it is their babies are saying.
"The scale gives us the chance to see what the baby's behavior will tell us," says Dr. Brazelton. "It gives us a window into what it will take to nurture the baby."
For example, it gives parents information about the following:
- If, and how, the baby likes to be handled
- How the baby calms herself
- If she is receptive to social interaction
The information garnered from the scale can help parents and doctors decide if a baby needs extra caregiving in certain areas.
In Ab Initio, a quarterly newsletter published by the Brazelton Institute, Mary Grimanis, RNC, MS, writes about 57 mothers and their healthy newborns who participated in a two-phase study of the effectiveness of the Brazelton Scale. The mothers said that the scale helped them as parents by giving them a greater awareness of their child's behavior and development. One mother discovered that her newborn was sensitive to sound. She said the scale helped her "recognize the kind of things that made him upset ... for example, the shaking of the rattle."
Another mother said, "It helped me recognize the states she was in—to know when it is best to feed and play with her. It made me more observant of her."