Mommy see, Mommy doAttentive parents and caregivers often mimic their babies as much as, if not more than, the other way around. Some may snicker at the sight of a big, burly man "goo-gooing" and "wuu-ahhing" with an infant on his lap, but child-development experts couldn't be more pleased.
"It's a characteristic of a responsive parent to realize that a baby has the skills to drive interactions and then allow that infant to take the lead," says Colombo. "When a baby makes a sound and that sound comes back to her, it provides her with a sense of control over her environment." Similarly, following the lead of a baby's actions -- smiling when she smiles, touching an object she touches, pointing where she points -- lets her know that she has the power both to communicate and make things happen.
Even more universal than oogling and goo-gooing is the instinct to sway while holding a fussy or sleepy baby. It appears that, in part, gentle motion activates a baby's vestibular system -- the innate sense that lets us know where we are in space.
Although most people picture rocking a baby as something done side to side (the way a child rocks a doll), at least one study shows that an up-and-down motion proves more effective, especially with newborns. "We find that the best way to console a crying newborn is to hold him upright on your shoulder, then bend and straighten your knees so he moves in a vertical direction," says Colombo.