He knows you're you
“Within a few weeks, babies can recognize their caregiver, and they prefer her to other people,” says Alison Gopnik, Ph.D., author ofThe Philosophical Baby and a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. Partly, your little one's just following her nose: In one study, researchers put a nursing newborn between two breast pads, one belonging to her mother. The scent of Mom's milk was enough to get the baby to turn toward that pad.
Become the foremost expert on what your baby's various cries mean. Relentless and desperate usually means hunger, abrupt might mean pain, and more plaintive can signal discomfort. You'll figure it out through trial and error, eventually grasping nuances that will baffle outsiders. The better you know his language, the better you can meet his needs. “When a baby's distressed and his parents respond, he learns he can count on them for comfort and relief, and that he matters,” says Linda Gilkerson, Ph.D., director of the Irving B. Harris Infant Studies Program at Erikson University. But don't worry if you can't always nail the wail: “You don't have to be perfect,” says Gilkerson. In fact, she says, research shows that caregivers are in perfect sync with their babies only about 40 percent of the time. What's more important is that you will learn to recognize and respond when your baby needs you. “Your baby learns ‘I can rely on Mom. Even if I cry for a little bit, she gets to me soon enough that I don't fall apart,’” Gilkerson says.