We celebrate Valentine’s Day this month, a time to say I love you to those we care about most. But how do we tell our babies that we love them? Especially in those early weeks when our babies are still waking up to the world, what do they need from us, and how do we make sure they know they are loved as they grow? We can share our love through touch, eye contact, talk and our responsiveness.
Babies interact with their world through touch. In the womb, they were surrounded by fluid, gently moving, warm and contained. Now they are experiencing movement in a new way and are often at the mercy of their reflexes. They need us to make sense of the world for them and to help moderate all their new experiences. So hold your baby, and touch her. Your babies’ favorite place is in your arms or on your chest, and your touch will reassure and calm her.
Even though new babies sleep a lot, when they have those brief awake and alert moments, they are programmed to look for your face. In the early days they may not seem to be looking at you, but we give them the opportunity to find us by making eye contact with them. As babies get older and more responsive, then that eye contact turns into “talking” with those smiles and coos and delight at looking at us. As you smile back they continue to respond, and start to know they are connected to you in a new way, and loved.
Our babies also connect to us through our voice. Talk to your baby as you go about your day, and tell him that he’s beautiful, that he has ten toes, that it’s time for lunch, or you’re going for a walk. The sound of your voice, even before they understand the words, helps them feel loved. So does singing or humming, which can also help your baby drift off to sleep, so don’t be afraid to serenade!
All of these things add up to being responsive to our babies. When we touch and feed them when they are hungry, hold and rock them when they need to sleep, and respond to their smiles with our own, they learn that the world is a safe place and that they are valued, important, and loved. What a nice way to think about Valentine’s Day!