Baby’s Emotions

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First smiles are just the start of the amazing emotions a baby will show and develop during the first year. As early as 3 months, babies already may be “reading” expressions and storing the information in their growing memory bank. These stored experiences will help them to manage and control emotions as they grow.

It all begins with a smile…

  • At 3 months of age, your baby may enjoy socialising with you and other immediate members of your family.
  • He/She may smile easily and have a keen interest in other human faces.
  • Babies learn about others and their emotional expressions when they have the opportunity to watch, listen and participate in social interactions.
  • You also can expect to hear the first of many giggles during this time. At around 4 months, the surest way to get your baby to laugh is by making funny little ‘burrr’ sounds, a peck on the cheek or some tickling on his/her stomach.
  • The reactions you get will have a significant influence on how your baby reacts to various situations in the future.
  • Infants develop the ability to read our emotions early on and can recognize their parent’s expressions by about 3.5 months of age.
  • Infants tend to watch their parents very closely, so it’s important to keep their emotions in check… after all, babies can sense emotions of anxiety just as much as happiness.
  • Interact with your baby using pleasant tones and expressions.
  • When your baby is alert and feeling social, respond to their smiles and cooing noises.
  • It’s important to listen and talk to your baby.
  • React in a warm and soothing way when she is anxious, frightened or crying.
  • Try swaddling your baby in a blanket or carry them close to your body in a sling.
  • Walk or rock them in a gentle manner with soft music playing in the background.

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Characteristics to be noted…

  • During the 6 to 9 month period, your baby may start to develop characteristics that are uniquely their own.
  • By now, you are familiar with their temperament and you know they exhibit a “tone” that is distinctively their own.
  • Perhaps they get excited when it is bath time or snuggle in your arms when it’s bedtime.
  • They have retained input on who has expressed positive or negative emotions towards them.
  • A sudden rise in someone’s voice or the tension in their mother’s touch has all been stored in their memory bank.
  • At this age, a baby will enjoy being around people he/she feels loved by.
  • A growing attachment has developed between their immediate caregivers, so it is natural for them to feel the beginnings of “separation anxiety”.
  • Most babies at this age will exhibit anxiety and fear when their parents are out of sight.
  • Although unnerving for parents, this behaviour is normal.
  • It simply means your baby’s memory centre in his/her brain is maturing.
  • Games like peek-a-boo, hide and seek will help them to learn that people and objects disappear and return.

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Model behaviour alert…

  • As your baby approaches the final months of his/her first year, they may be more capable of demonstrating a degree of varied emotions.
  • Your baby may distinguish between people they know well and those they don’t.
  • He/she may be more mobile now and curious to explore their surroundings on their own.
  • Their new-found independence actually aids them in feeling safe and secure as they move away from and returns to, their trusted loved ones.
  • Unpleasant encounters that once caused tears may now elicit frowns or just head turning to signal their disapproval.
  • They may show signs of frustration or anger and you’re likely to witness their first temper tantrum.
  • Often, babies will get over-excited or over-stimulated that may result in frustration.
  • It is suggested that parents try another activity after an outburst such as this – Allow your baby to express emotions and then sooth them to help them learn to modulate negative emotions more quickly.
  • At this stage, a small cuddly stuffed animal or a soft blanket would help your baby feel safe and secure as he/she grows and explores the ever-changing world around them.

Observation skills on point….

  • The thought of a baby watching your every move may make some of us nervous and overly protective.
  • It’s best to model the behaviour you expect from your child.
  • Set and enforce guidelines appropriate for the age and temperament of the child.
  • Don’t smile and laugh at behaviour that is discouraged. The laughter they see on your face will only encourage them to repeat the behaviour.
  • Echo your baby’s smiles and cooing.
  • Hold your baby firmly, distract them and be calm but assertive when they are angry. It’s important to be consistent.
  • Children need a warm and predictable environment to form close relationships with those around them.
  • If children are ignored or their emotions are not met with proper responses, they may have difficulties forming positive relationships later in life.
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