11 Important Baby Cues
How moms can decode baby signals like smiling, copying mom and dad, eye rubbing, and crying, so they can respond to their babies and bond with them.
The first true smile usually occurs between six and eight weeks, says Dr. Acredolo. "At this early age, smiles are likely a signal of physical contentment," she says. "My own baby's first smile, for instance, was triggered by the coziness of a warm towel after her bath." But soon, smiles become more controlled, and happen when your baby is around loved ones.
What to do: Encourage your baby by reacting positively to her first smiles; laugh and smile back at her, tell her how terrific she is -- even if she doesn't understand the words, she gets the message.
We are blueprints for our babies. "Between three and six months, most infants will learn to imitate facial expressions -- fear, surprise, sadness," says Dr. Hill. By nine months, a baby will take in a new situation (i.e. the appearance of a stranger), then look back at her mother's face. "If the baby sees the parent is also distressed, then her anxiety will increase," says Dr. Hill. "Usually, the baby will start clinging or crying."
What to do: Remember that if you're feeling stressed, your baby will be too. If it's a minor case of anxiety, take some deep, cleansing breaths and consciously relax your facial muscles to ease tension. "In many cases, the act of smiling itself is likely to calm you down," says Dr. Hill. "Follow that with strong, smooth touch such as hugging or patting, to let your baby know everything is okay." (Of course, if you're reaching the point of anger or frustration, you should always hand your baby off to someone else. If you're alone, put him down in a safe place like his crib until you've calmed down.)
Studies suggest that about 90 percent of communication by babies and adults is nonverbal, says speech-language pathologist Diane Bahr, author of Nobody Ever Told Me (or my Mother) That! "For instance, many babies make little fists when they're hungry and begin feeding," she says. "Once they are satisfied and full, their hands relax and open." Other common body language cues: