Babies learn by exploring the things around them. Show your baby how to look at, listen to, touch or smell something new or different. Hold your baby so she (or he) can see things. Help her hold objects like her socks or a rattle. As she grows, give her safe objects to feel, shake or put into her mouth.
- Be your baby’s teacher. She (or he) will see how you react to things. When you get excited about a toy or object, she’ll get excited too. As she grows, show her how things work—for example, how doors open and close. Talk about what you are doing. For example, “I am putting the food in the pot to cook it.”
- When a baby is learning something new, it helps her to try it again and again. With your help and support this can be fun, and your baby will like trying new things.
- Protect your baby from harsh disapproval, teasing or punishment. A baby doesn’t understand right from wrong. She doesn’t know what things are dangerous for her to do. Watch her to keep her safe. Remove her from situations where she can be hurt or injured.
- Talk and sing to your baby. Even before she is able to speak, this helps her develop language skills. Babies learn best when you talk to them.
- Read to your baby from the earliest months of her life and continue this habit as she grows.
Babies Have People Skills, Too
From the start, your baby is interested in your face. She notices your expressions and tone of voice. She reacts to your emotions. For example, when you say something in a soft and loving way, she will relax and feel more secure.
Scientists have learned that babies show emotions as early as when they are one month old. Something else scientists have learned is that feeling good helps babies learn better.
Why? Happy babies are more alert, attentive and responsive. Babies remember things better when they are happy and at ease. The way you hold and talk to your baby can help her feel happy.
Babies who are alert and feeling good are more likely to look at things, explore and play. They will pay attention more. For example, they will try to make new things happen with toys or make sounds with people. This helps them learn and remember new things.
Brief periods of distress or difficulty will occur. These will not harm a child. Short periods of negative emotions can be helpful for your baby. You should do something quickly to help her feel better. From this she will learn you care about what she tries to tell you. Long periods of negative emotion, like crying, can do harm.
In the first month, the negative emotion that occurs is distress or a response to pain. Later, she will show sadness and anger. Next comes fear. All people have these emotions to protect themselves. Help your baby be at ease with having emotions. Respond to her emotions in a warm and loving way.
You can tell what your baby is feeling by changes in her facial expression. You can also see what she is feeling by her posture, movements and the sounds she makes.
Learning to Communicate
It will be months before your baby says her first word. But babies start learning about language much earlier.
Even in the first few weeks after birth, your baby is learning about language. Very young babies can tell the difference between speech and other sounds. They can tell the difference between the voices of men and the voices of women. They even know the voices of their own mothers. A baby can tell the voice of her mother from the voices of other women. Researchers think babies are able to do this because of the way specific parts of their brains work.
Babies can also communicate long before they speak. They use movements and sounds to let you know what they want or don’t want. Some people refer to these as a baby’s “signals”.
Right now, your baby can tell you if she needs something by fussing or crying. She can also let you know when she likes something or someone by looking intently. Babies learn best how to tell parents what they like or don’t like when they begin to see that parents respond to them in positive ways.
Even before she can speak, you need to talk to your baby. Even though there are differences among individuals, babies whose parents talk to them talk sooner. They also have larger vocabularies. Talking to babies gives them language skills that will help them learn more easily when they get to school. Hearing words on the radio or TV is not very helpful to babies learning language. Your baby benefits from having you up close smiling, talking and singing.
Babies Cry for Lots of Reasons
Crying is the way newborns communicate. Your new baby cries to let you know she needs or wants something.
The first thing to try when she cries is to feed her. By noticing when she wants to be fed and when she doesn’t, you will learn which cries mean that she is hungry, uncomfortable or wants attention. Sometimes she will want to be held. Sometimes she wants a dry diaper. Sometimes she is tired or bored.
As you and your baby get to know each other, you will sometimes be able to tell the difference between each kind of crying. You can then try to give her what she needs.
Taking care of your baby when she cries will not spoil her. It will help your baby feel loved and secure.
Smile, touch and talk to your baby as often as possible. Do this when you feed her, change her diaper or give her a bath. Your baby will learn that she can rely on you to take care of her.
Ways to Soothe Your Baby
Sometimes babies cry even when they have been fed, have clean diapers and are healthy. If your baby is crying because she needs comfort, there are many things you can do. Every baby is different.
Here are things you can try to find out what calms your baby down.
- Rock your baby in your arms or while sitting in a rocking chair.
- Stroke your baby’s head very gently, or lightly pat her back or chest.
- Make soft noises to let your baby know you are there and you care.
- Talk to your baby.
- Softly sing to your baby or play soft music.
- Wrap her up in a baby blanket (but not too tightly).
If your baby keeps crying after you have tried everything, stay calm. Babies know when you are upset. No matter how stressed you are, never shake your baby. Shaking your baby can cause blindness, brain damage or even death.
If you need a break, call a relative, neighbour or friend to help. All babies cry. You will not be able to comfort your baby every time. That does not mean you are a bad parent. Do the best you can to soothe and comfort your baby.
Here’s a simple tip to help your baby cry less—carry her. Research shows that babies who are carried more often don’t cry as much as other babies.