Health Beat – Babies begin building relationships from birth. Did you know?

Chaffee County Early Childhood Council
Health Beat article – April 2013

Babies begin building relationships from birth.  Did you know?

Many misconceptions exist about when and how a baby begins developing relationships and social foundation.  Over the past decade research has done a 180 degree turn on infants’ emotions.  Experts now believe that infants do understand others and can relate feelings, as well as begin establishing sharing emotions at infancy.  Why is this important?  Successful relationships and interactions start from the beginning.  If we know that, we can make those moments more meaningful and introduce easy activities that help babies build relationships that will benefit them in multiple ways.

Did you know?

Babies from 0 to 4 months thrive on facial expressions
Not only is face to face interaction enjoyable for babies, they need it more than any other type of play.
Talking to your baby face to face, making eye contact, and showing a variety of facial expressions (happy, funny, sad, surprise) is more stimulating to a baby than any mobile, rattle, toy…..or television screen.  Facial expressions and the human voice help babies understand their environment.  It will not be long before they begin to imitate the facial expression.  Older infants are able to see the difference in these expressions.  Not only are they beginning to understand emotions, the imitation is one of the first steps in human sharing/interaction, learning, and building human relationships.

What can you expect at this stage?

– Babies smile spontaneously especially at people.
– They begin to imitate facial expressions.  You may make a face at them and see if they mimic or you can copy their facial expression.
– Imitating facial expressions will eventually transition into imitating sounds.  Copy their babbling sounds and see if they can imitate a simple sound that you make.

What can you do to encourage their development?

– Hold your baby and talk to him/her in a calm tone.  Make faces as you talk.
– Begin developing consistent routines for eating and sleeping.
– Play peek-a-boo.  Each time you uncover your face, make a different expression.

By 6 months a baby experiences many emotions
Beginning around 6 months, babies begin expressing their own emotions more intentionally – sadness, happiness, frustration, and fear.  Babies do recognize their own emotions and are also aware of the emotions of those around them.  They understand the difference between facial expressions and that each one means something different.

What can you expect at this stage?

– Babies are making more sounds intentionally as sounds develop into simple words.  You will hear vowels, M, and B.
– Sounds begin indicating joy or frustration.
– They will begin recognizing and responding to their name.

What can you do to encourage their development?

– Take turns making sounds to each other.  Copy the baby’s sounds and introduce some new sounds.
– When baby looks at something, point to it or pick it up and talk about it… “This is a ball.  It is blue.”
– Repeating words is an important part of them understanding and learning.

By 9 months choices become intentional
Babies begin developing favorite toys and books as well as showing preferences between people.  Stranger anxiety becomes apparent as babies become more aware of who they know and what they like.

What can you expect at this stage?

– Babies at this age are becoming more social and interactive with people and the world around them.
– They will begin being more clingy to familiar adults in new situations and will show their emotions and anxiety about new people.
– Maintaining consistent routines with food and sleep are important so your baby understands what to expect and avoids frustrations with hunger and tiredness.

What can you do to encourage development?

– Begin creating some social hours with other babies the same age.  Having babies near each other helps create a new awareness and is the first step in interacting with their peers.
– Talk to your baby about emotions.  Identify what they may be feeling or what you may be feeling so they begin understanding emotions.  “You are sad because we need to put the books away.”
– Continue to copy new sounds and words.

Between the ages of 12 and 18 months babies show clear signs of empathy.
At this stage your baby has greater awareness of emotions in others and in themselves.  You may see your child crying when mom or dad leaves the room.  They also begin showing affection to familiar people.  Keep in mind there may still be some stranger anxiety.  As they get older their ability to discover and demonstrate also grows.  Each step builds upon the next.

What can you expect at this stage?

– During these six months you may begin to see some temper tantrums as your baby continues to be aware of emotions and demonstrates how he/she feels.  They are beginning to know what they want, yet do not have the ability to express.
– They will point at objects to show you something interesting.  It is their way of sharing their view.  This is an opportunity to talk about the object.
– Children will begin to have conflicts.  It is not too early to begin practicing how to share.
– Problem solving is beginning to develop.  The round piece does not fit in the square hole.  Encourage them to try other holes, without doing it for them or giving them the answer right away.  Teach them skills to find a solution versus giving them the solution.

What can you do to encourage development?

– Talk about what interests them so they can develop words and ideas.
– Praise good behavior, the effort as much as the outcome.
– Encourage empathy.  When your child sees another child who is sad.  Explain in simple terms what is happening and encourage your child to share a toy or give touch of affection.
– Continue to copy and share words.

The world is an amazing place the first 18 months.  Your child is like a sponge absorbing many elements.  They are also taking dozens of small steps that build into a foundation for language, physical abilities, and relationships.  Your interaction with them helps lead the way.