Communicating with Your Baby
Your infant still cannot communicate through words, but she has other means of letting you know what she thinks, feels, or wants. Crying, of course, still serves your baby well as a means of communicating her needs. By around five months, however, your baby begins to communicate in other nonverbal ways. She also increasingly uses facial expressions and gestures to get her message across.
Your baby has expanded her repertoire of gestures. She now points and reaches toward something she wants. She opens her arms wide and reaches up when she wants you to pick her up. She also may push away a toy or food that she doesn't like.
You can also see a broad range of facial expressions by six months. Your baby may scrunch up her face when presented with a new food. She may frown when something puzzles her (as so many things do). She will open her mouth wide with surprise. She may stick out her tongue and make a "blah" face if something displeases her. And of course, whenever you walk into the room, she smiles and smiles.
Do You Have the Magic Touch?
You too communicate with your baby in nonverbal ways. You reward him for grasping a toy or sitting up with your smiles and claps (as well as your words of praise). You wave bye-bye when you're going somewhere. You comfort him with a hug or a kiss. But most of all, you hold him.
Communication with a pre-verbal child of any age begins and ends with a parent's touch. Remember that when your baby cries in an attempt to communicate with you, your first response should always be to pick him up and hold him. This magic of touch helps form a secure basis for any further communication between you. Through recognition of his cry, common sense, or guesswork, you may then find out what your baby wants, but you may also discover that all he really wants is for you to hold him.
Close physical contact in these early years is the cement that bonds parents and infants together. Any loving action you take with your baby in your arms helps build the bond of trust between you. Whether you hold him, rock him, hug him, read to him, play with him, sing to him, or coo to him, you send a nonverbal message of love that your baby understands and appreciates.
When you hold your baby in your arms, he feels safer, more secure, and calmer. When you respond to his cries by quickly picking him up and hugging him tight, your baby learns to trust that you will try to make everything all right. By about three or four months, your baby may even stop crying as soon as you bring him up to your chest. He knows you now and trusts you to take care of his needs.
Because physical closeness means so much to your baby, give him as much as he wants. Like all babies, your baby will love to be held, hugged, rocked, caressed, and massaged. Indeed, research has shown that most babies prefer caresses even to food. So use gentle touch to communicate and bond with your baby. Hold him, cuddle him, and snuggle with him as often as you can. Lie down with your baby and let him cuddle up close. Let him take in the warmth of your skin and the aroma of your body (and your partner's, too). Let him lie on your chest so that he can hear your heartbeat. In all likelihood, you'll love this close physical contact almost as much as your baby does.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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