At birth your baby is already equipped with basic emotions to ensure their survival. Distressed? They howl the place down! Content? They coo and gurgle. As a new mom, your job is to work out whether wails mean “feed me” or “change my nappy” and how to bring on that delightful belly laugh. Emotions and the corresponding facial expressions are your baby’s only way of communicating with you when they don’t have words to say what they need. The way that you interact with your little one will set the tone for their emotional and social development in the future.
Your baby’s social and emotional needs
Your baby’s most important emotional need is to feel secure. Always be responsive to cries for food and comfort; this is how trust develops. Touch is essential - hold your little one close so that they feel your warmth and your heartbeat. Handle them gently so that they feel cherished and learn to value their own body. Spend one-on-one time with lots of eye contact; your baby will get to know you and learn to give and receive love.
Be aware of your own emotions - your baby will sense tension in your expression and the tone of your voice. Be sensitive to your little one’s temperament and mood and don’t over-stimulate them. A tired baby is a cranky baby; provide enough rest and a consistent routine.
You are the most important person in your baby’s life, so expect them to get upset when you’re not available 24/7. Be sensitive to your little one’s fear of losing you, and always say goodbye when you leave. Resist the urge to sneak away; your baby will only become more upset if they think you disappeared into thin air! Over time your baby will realise that you always come back and the separation anxiety will subside.
Help your baby to develop social skills
As your baby starts to explore their world, they need to develop the social skills to connect and cooperate with others. Mimic your baby’s vocalisations and encourage them to listen and respond; this teaches them the give and take of social interaction. Sing songs and tell stories so that your little one consistently hears your voice and your words. This is how they will eventually learn to speak. Blow bubbles or play peek-a-boo - having fun with your baby encourages imagination and develops their interests. Play stimulates your baby’s senses and taking turns while playing will teach your baby to share and care about others.