A very important part of human development is socialization and emotional engagement – not only is connecting with other people vital to happiness in life but falling in love with your baby and vice versa brings so much joy to your parenting journey.
In the first few weeks your baby may not be very responsive but at 6 weeks all the hard work of early parenting becomes worthwhile when your baby shows his or her first smile. Almost all babies smile by 6-8 weeks and some a lot earlier. According to Occupational Therapist Cornelia Liebentritt, for an infant to develop social engagement, they must first be able to take in the sights, sounds and other sensations of the world around them without feeling overwhelmed by it or not registering it.
Once this starts happening they can start wooing others and be wooed by others to stay engaged through joyful emotions. This is when little ones start to smile. These 5 Babies R Us tips will help you to be prepared-ish for your little ones emerging social development:
1. Make sure you put your mobile device down and engage with your newborn – lots of eye contact and interactions wires his/her brain for that first social smile.
2. Help your newborn baby not to be overwhelmed by the sensory world by making sure he/she has time for sleep and decreasing stimulation if your baby is becoming niggly.
3. Watch your baby’s subtle signals for interaction – eye contact, turning his/her head towards you and a soft gaze of attention – this is the time to interact and smile at your baby.
4. Encourage your baby to smile and interact by noticing his/her little attempts to smile and then smile back – this feedback reinforces the skill.
5. If your baby is not making eye contact and does not smile by 8 weeks, chat to your paediatrician.
These early baby smiles are just the most precious (and important milestone). For more information on preparing for your baby's development and social engagement, read the age band chapters in Baby Sense (Faure & Richardson).
Megan Faure (OTR) www.megfaure.com Meg is an Occupational Therapist with a special interest in babies and toddlers - specifically irritable infants; sleep problems, emotional engagement difficulties and fussy feeding. Meg is the co-author of Baby Sense and the Sense-series books. Her clinical practise is in Cape Town and she consults and speaks internationally too.