Five factors to ensure an infant thrives

A new study from Washington University in St. Louis has identified the key elements that every baby needs to thrive and develop into a healthy, well-functioning individual. Dubbed the “Thrive 5,” these five conditions are essential for optimal brain, behavioral, and cognitive development in infants.

“When they have access to these basic supports, even in the face of adverse environments, it enhances their brain development, cognition (measures of IQ) and social-emotional development,” said Joan Luby, MD, the university’s Samuel and Mae S. Ludwig Professor of Child Psychiatry at the School of Medicine.

The five essential elements of the Thrive 5 are:
1. Environmental stimulation
2. Proper nutrition, including breastfeeding if possible
3. Neighborhood safety
4. Positive caregiving
5. Regular circadian rhythms and sleep

“The novelty here is putting them all together and thinking of them as a constellation of things that are necessary and important for a child to be able to thrive,” said Deanna Barch, PhD, vice dean of research, a professor of psychological & brain sciences in Arts & Sciences and the Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, followed 232 infants and their mothers, evaluating the presence of these Thrive 5 elements in the fetal period and first year of life. The researchers found that even infants from adverse conditions and under-resourced backgrounds could achieve healthy development if they had access to the Thrive 5.

“The Thrive Factor provides a solid foundation for healthy development. It has been underappreciated in primary care just how malleable the brain is to experience,” Luby added.

The researchers emphasize that while education can help caregivers provide the Thrive 5, public policy interventions are also needed to ensure all families have access to the resources necessary to support these essential elements of infant development.

“We need to make it so families can have the resources necessary to provide these core things to kids because it’s going to have such a big impact on kids’ development across the course of their lifespan,” Barch said.

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.