Behaviour basics

Babies are born with the ability to express basic emotions such as joy, anger and fear. Your baby may not be able to speak, but they can certainly communicate by yelling when they’re upset and chortling when they’re delighted. It takes time for a new mom to read their baby’s signals correctly. So where do you start?

Bonding with your baby
The tenderness that you feel towards your baby is one of the strongest connections in nature and ensures your baby’s survival. During pregnancy, powerful hormones lay the groundwork for attachment. Breastfeeding and close contact with your baby produces oxytocin, known as the love hormone. When you provide comfort and a sense of security, your baby becomes deeply connected to you.

Don’t despair if you don’t fall in love with your little one immediately. A difficult birth or being separated from your newborn can temporarily interrupt the bonding process, but most moms reconnect with their baby in the first few months.

Coping with your baby’s behaviour
It’s important to respond promptly to your baby’s cries – at this age they’re too little to manipulate you. If you’ve fed, changed and burped them but they’re still inconsolable, they may be suffering from colic.  A warm bath, gentle massage and skin-to-skin contact should help to soothe your little one and make them more comfortable. Visit our article for other reasons why babies cry, as well as ways to soothe a crying baby.

Around the 9-month-old mark, your baby may start launching themselves backwards out of your arms. Stay calm and hold on tight – this is normal behaviour when they’re angry or frustrated. If your baby has a difficult temperament that tests your patience, let someone else step in when you need a break. Your little one is more likely to calm down when the adult looking after them is relaxed.

Can you discipline your baby?
A crawling baby is old enough to make mischief, but too young to understand the difference between wrong and right. You can still encourage appropriate behaviour by tailoring the method to their level of understanding. When your baby fiddles with a breakable object, firmly tell them “no” and redirect them to a safer activity. Babies are naturally curious about exploring their world, so baby-proofing your home – covering plugpoints, locking away cleaning agents – is the most sensible way to avoid conflict and keep your baby safe.  By the age of 12 months, your little one will understand the meaning of “no” and stop what they’re doing in response to the word.

However frustrated you may feel, spanking, shaking or yelling at your little one will only frighten them and may even cause an injury. Shaking your baby is dangerous and can lead to permanent brain damage. If you’re feeling angry, put your baby down in a safe place and take some time-out.