The time we spend communicating with our wee ones is important for their little minds to develop. They are born ready to start interacting with you and the more moments you interact with them throughout the day the better. Here are some tips for simple things you can do to engage with your baby while you get on with your day.
In this short video, Dr Suzanne Zeedyk explains why doing the little things together with your baby is so important.
Where do I start?
Having a baby can be an overwhelming experience. You now have a new person who will be depending on you to help them manage their emotions and learn about the world. There’s nothing quite like it. It’s exciting and rewarding but also difficult and stressful. Taking care of your baby’s physical needs feels like such a massive job that you might worry you aren’t giving their emotional needs enough attention.
Babies want to feel safe and cared for and they want to feel connected to you. But don’t worry if you don’t know where to start, there are plenty of simple things you can do to build your relationship and connect to them.
Just try to be consistent and persevere and listen a lot. Your baby will teach you what they need from you.
As soon as your baby is born they are ready to communicate with you. By talking to them and comforting them you make them feel safe. They can’t understand all that you say but they understand enough to feel comforted by your voice and your attention.
Babies “chat” with their parents and others around them using actions, expressions and sounds. By engaging with them you can give them the foundation of love and affection they need. They are able to do this because they are born with a brain that is built to communicate with you.
In this short video, Glasgow mum Kim shares the little things she does to boost her wee one's emotional and social development.
Serve and return
One way to connect with your baby is by doing something you might find you do already called “serve and return”. This is when you watch whatever your baby does and let them see you copy it. So your baby might say “da!”. If you smile and say “yes, it’s daddy!” your baby will feel connected with you, and use your response to learn.
Or your baby might look at something, and you can say what it is and show it to them. Then pause and see how your baby responds. Try to keep it up as long as your baby is interested. Even if you are busy with housework or other tasks, it can be fun to involve your baby by “chatting” about what you’re doing.
By doing this your baby learns that you are listening and responding, this then gets built into the pathways in their brain. This simple turn-taking helps your baby learn about communication and helps them realise how much they matter to you. It also begins to build their confidence and lays foundations for how to manage their feelings as they grow.
What the professionals say.
“Serve and return helps your baby to learn new skills in communication and socialisation. Interaction with others who respond to them with noises, gestures and touch helps the social part of their brain develop. Interaction and relationships are essential to growing their little brains and minds.”
- Dr Anne McFadyen, Infant Mental Health Lead
What is co-regulation?
Co-regulation is a natural part of relationships where people (babies and adults!) learn how to manage their emotions with the support of others. Babies can't manage their own feelings, because their brain and stress system is too immature. They need help in managing big emotions. Parents do that when they respond to babies' needs.
This is the process of co-regulation, when your warm, reassuring reactions help a baby to 'regulate' their own emotions. These reactions support your baby’s understanding, and help them express themselves and manage their emotions. If you pay close attention to the signals your child sends you and respond sensitively, you will help them learn how to regulate their own behaviour.
It might sound complicated, but it is really just about being consistent in making your wee one feel cared for. For example, if your child is upset and you respond calmly and listen to them then it can help them feel better. By doing this, you are helping your baby to develop trust and feel safe.
What the professionals say
“Babies feel safe when they are near you. They aren’t sure what dangers lurk if you are too far away! That’s why they can get fretful and anxious if you are gone for too long. That doesn’t mean that you actually do need to be with them all the time. It just gives you a better understanding of why they can cry at the most unexpected times (like when you nip to the loo!). If you are sure to comfort them when you get back, then they start to learn you will always come back, and that in itself is reassuring.“
- Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, Developmental Psychologist and Research Scientist
“We know secure early relationships promote feelings of security, and this helps babies learn how to think and feel. In the long term they will be better able to express and control their emotions and have happy relationships.”
- Dr Anne McFadyen, Infant Mental Health Lead