Provide your infant with the necessary attention and care to give her a healthy emotional start to life. The care given to a baby affects her development throughout her lifetime. Responding to babies emotional needs also ties into their physical development, so it’s especially important to give your baby the care she needs to feel comfortable and secure.
Touch is imperative for an infant’s intellectual and motor development, in addition to providing benefits for her emotional needs. Gently caress, touch, and hold your baby often to meet these needs. Softly massage your baby’s arms, stomach and legs to provide skin-to-skin contact. Physical contact can also be provided with a soft carrier that keeps a baby close to your body. According to Attachmentparenting.org, touch calms babies with colic and helps develop their feelings of security and comfort, which is important for their neurological development.
Infants need to feel secure that their needs will be met. Respond to your baby’s cries right away so he knows his problems will get fixed. Babies are unable to soothe themselves, which is why it is so important to take action when your infant is crying. According to clinical psychologist, Dr. Laura Markham, crying for long periods of time changes brain chemistry and neural connections so that babies become more easily upset and less able to soothe themselves. This poses a risk for a lifetime of physical and emotional issues. Consistent responsiveness of a compassionate caregiver teaches babies not to panic. Over time, infants build confidence from being comforted and learn to self- soothe.
Feeding meets a baby’s physical and emotional needs. Breastfeeding stimulates a bond between a mother and child that naturally comforts your baby. If you are bottle-feeding, maintain eye contact with your infant. Whether you are bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, feed the baby on demand, rather than on schedule to maintain your infant’s sense of comfort. Keep in mind that it takes extra time to heat up a bottle, so prepare ahead of time if possible. Speak softly and affectionately to your baby during feeding time and provide her with your undivided attention.
Spend one-on-one time with your infant to build security and an emotional attachment. Respond to his coos with smiles or gentle, loving words. Non-verbal communication is also important because infants cannot form words to express what they are feeling. Watch your infant and respond to his cues. When you are playing with your baby, he may become over-stimulated and respond by turning away. Watch for eye contact to resume playtime. Watch if his mood changes with different noises, people, lighting or other environmental factors and respond to situations that make him uncomfortable.
- Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning: Infant Mental Health and Early Care and Education Providers
- Parents.com: Your Baby's Emotional Development
- Attachment Parenting International: API's Eight Principles of Parenting
- The Record: Meet Your Baby’s Emotional Needs
- AhaParenting.com: Attachment Q and A
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images