Before a baby learns how to connect with their eyes and smile, emotional attachment could seem very one dimensional. This can make it hard for parents to know if all their love and devotion is making a difference, especially in the early weeks of a baby’s life. But slowly, parents start to see a range of responses from their baby which can be reassuring and see more clearly, that their efforts are being received.
When a parent smiles and their baby smiles and coos back, this starts off a cycle of back and forth (reciprocal) connection. This taking turns, is what helps to hardwire a baby’s brain so they learn to feel loved and be social.
What’s important is that parents are sensitive and ‘attuned’ to what their baby needs and wants. Doing this means that babies have their needs met more quickly and learn to feel secure and safe.
What we know to be true about the ways a baby connects
There are all sorts of influencing factors when it comes to parent/baby connection. As individuals, each of us show our own unique styles of communicating love and affection.
- Some parents are more outgoing in the ways they communicate with their baby, others are quieter.
- There is no ‘one right way’ to say “I love you”. Similarly, babies can show a range of different responses to their parents which are clues that they feel safe and secure.
- Babies grow best in homes where their care is predictable and safe.
- Parenting only needs to be ‘good enough’, remember, you don’t need to be a perfect parent.
- When a parent is depressed/anxious, or not having their own needs met, it can be very hard for them to interact with their baby. Make sure you’re okay and get help if you need to.
10 likely signs your baby knows you love them
We can’t know with 100% certainty how a baby communicates their love. The best we can do is follow their signals and cues and interpret them into some sort of meaning.
- When they establish eye contact with you and stare into your face and eyes.
- They seem to be listening to your voice and stop crying when you talk.
- They mimic your mouth movements and learn to smile.
- When they are old enough, they reach for you or crawl/walk towards you.
- They coo and make little sounds, as if they’re trying to talk.
- They follow a fairly predictable pattern of being awake and sleeping.
- They calm when you hold and speak gently to them.
- They look for you, even though their vision may not be fully developed.
- They go to sleep in your arms and when they’re feeding.
- They look contented, are growing and reaching their developmental milestones.
If you need more information about ways to connect, speak with your Child Health Nurse. If beneficial, they can refer you to an Early Intervention Specialist who can guide you further on attachment skills.
Written for Infacol by Jane Barry, Midwife and Child Health Nurse, May 2022.