Baby Zap is quiet and alert. She is sitting with her ball. When she sees Dad come by, she motions to him, wanting him to stop and play with her. Dad gives her a toy instead, but that doesn't interest her. He gives her more toys as he goes by her, but he's not getting her message. He sits down to read the paper. So Baby Zap tries a more direct way of getting Dad's attention - and she does. Finally, Dad understands, and gets down on the floor to play with her.
Long before your child can talk, he is trying to tell you things by sending you cues and clues about what he needs, wants and feels. Even when he's only a few months old, your baby will be testing different types of cries, gurgles, facial expressions and so on to see how you and the other people around him respond. He'll learn to repeat the types of cries and movements that produce the results he wants. Learning how effective he is at "making things happen" helps him develop self-esteem and a willingness to try new things.
You can't spoil a baby by responding to her needs. And in the process, you're learning more about her, and she's learning more about you - in particular, that she can count on you.
Learning to "read" your baby is often fun and can seem easy. You smile, he smiles. He reaches out, you take his hand. But it can also be hard. For example, if he turns his head away when you speak, it feels awful, like rejection. But he's just telling you he is overtired or overstimulated. Or perhaps because he is very sensitive to noise, he may be telling you that he needs your voice to be softer - or just to leave him alone for the moment. It will take some trial and error to figure out what your baby is trying to tell you, so don't be discouraged.
Your baby forms a "secure attachment" to you as you respond well to your child's needs and care for her. This attachment becomes part of the brain's wiring and sets the basic model for all future close relationships.
Quality time depends on quantity of time . All the occasions when you're able to spend a few minutes with your child won't necessarily be happy, special times - when you seem to be close and communicating with each other. You have to spend lots of time getting used to each other and bonding for those special moments to occur. And when you really focus on your child, even during routine, everyday things, those moments will happen more and more.
Toys don't replace your personal attention. Giving a child toys and other safe things to play with is an important part of providing a stimulating environment, but playing with your child is also essential to your child's well-being.
Even when you seem to be pulled in many directions at once, it's important to make time for your baby. If you have a partner, try to work it out that you take turns with chores and with time for the baby. Housework isn't the highest priority. Build a network of friends, relatives and neighbours - we can all use a bit of help.
Food for Thought:
- How does a baby send cues and clues? What sort of messages would she be sending?
- Even in a busy, demanding day, how can you make sure that you have time and energy for your child?
- What kinds of activities can you do with your baby, for fun?
- How can you strengthen the bond of love with your baby?