In the first year your baby might not be able to verbally say the words “I love you” but they show you in so many ways. At the beginning it might feel like you are just there to give them food and settle them to sleep.
Know that in fact, right from the very first moment you are the most important people in their world.
Have a look at some ways our baby sees you during their first year.
First 6 months
Research has shown that baby’s get to know their mother’s voice in the womb and can distinguish it from all the other voices they hear.
A baby’s heart rate slows when mum is talking and right from birth mum’s voice is the most calming and comfortable sound on the planet.
Experts also believe that if their father talks to them a lot in the womb that they may well begin to recognise dad’s voice too.
A baby’s hearing is tuned to pick up the sound of a human voice above any other sound in their environment. They are able to process the tone and intonation of mum and dad’s speech and recognise it easily.
A baby’s vision is not very well developed at birth and focuses most clearly on objects about 18 cms away.
Cleverly, this is the distance that parents hold their baby for a cuddle or a feed and they soon begin to recognise their faces. And parents’ faces are the most important to babies.
Psychological studies have shown that they spend more time peering at their mum or dad’s face than that of another adult.
Even though they don’t have very good eyesight newborns tend to gaze at mum and dad’s face and focus on the largest features (the eyes, nose and mouth).
They soon start to copy facial expressions, which further deepens their feeling of connection with you.
Newborn babies are sensitive to the smell of their mum’s breast milk.
It’s also been shown that each time they feed they pick up their mother’s unique scent and begin to associate it with comfort.
A baby’s sense of smell is highly developed from birth. They use it more than sight to recognise their parents, after all newborns spend a lot of time with their eyes closed.
If new dads give a lot of skin-to-skin contact and spend a lot of time cuddling their baby, then they will soon begin to associate their father’s unique smell with a feeling of safety and comfort too.
While your baby might be happy with any cuddles they melt into the arms of mum and dad and relax deeply. You have a unique ability to soothe and calm your baby and there’s no safer place to be for him than snuggled in your arms.
By 6 months this favouritism for mum and dad over every other human on the planet becomes stronger still. Your baby will wiggle excitedly when you come into the room.
Laughing with Mum and Dad
You might be treated to your baby’s first smile at about 7 weeks and their first laugh at around 3 or 4 months are just magic. If you laugh back this positive reinforcement will encourage them to laugh even more!
Between 6 months and a year babies learn their sense of humour from their parents. In a study parents were told to look at two objects; a book and a red foam ball.
They were first asked to react normally to these objects, as they would everyday.
The parents were then asked to look at the same two objects in an ‘absurd’ situation.
The book was placed on the researcher’s head and she said ‘Zoop zoop’. The ball was placed on her nose while she pressed it and said ‘Beep beep’.
The mum and dad were told to react differently, sometimes normally and sometimes pointing and laughing.
The babies did not copy their parents and point and laugh at the absurd events but they did do something else. They stared intensely at the absurd events, and they also stared at their parents when they were pointing and laughing.
This seems to show that they were somehow processing their parents’ behaviour and how it linked to the absurd events. They were learning their humour from the humour of their parents. Eventually babies too end up bursting out into giggles when funny things happen.
Baby see, baby do
Even from a few hours old babies copy things that their parents do.
Influential experiments in the 70s and 80s proved that very young babies stick their tongues out when their mums and dads do.
As they grow they continue closely watching their parents and copying what they do. They start with facial expressions and later go on to copy things like hand waving and clapping.
It’s all part of the way they learn.
Each time they copy and repeat your actions, they are laying down vital neural pathways. Parents are a child’s first, most important and best teacher.
It’s a lovely feeling knowing you are your baby’s very favourite person and the centre of their world.
At around 9 months of age though, they will begin to feel separation anxiety when you are not around.
This stage shows you how much your baby loves you above all others. But it’s tough too as your baby will cry when you leave them with someone else or drop them off at nursery.
This happens more now because, at this age, they are still learning that Mummy and Daddy can go and then come back again. When you leave they don’t yet know that you’ll be back again soon.
If parental guilt really kicks in then try and reassure yourself that they will soon settle once you are gone. They will eventually learn that you will always come back and this separation anxiety will lessen.
A safe haven
At about 9 months onwards babies become more mobile and the real fun begins! This newfound skill means they will gain the confidence to explore the world around them.
However, if they ever feel unsure or scared they will always want to return to your side. Even when they go off exploring they will turn and check that you’re there.
You are always an important place of safety and comfort to them.
Mums and dads – you’re amazing
Sometimes it can feel like you are just a pair of arms to feed, change and rock your baby.
If your baby cries a lot you can begin to wonder if you are doing something wrong and if they even like you very much. Add in a huge dollop of sleep deprivation and these doubts can become even stronger.
There is no doubt that you are the most important people in your baby’s whole world and the ones they need the most.
Even if they can’t say the words, there are so many ways that they tell you that they love you in the first year.
Remind yourself that you’re doing a great job. You’re amazing!
For fun things to do with baby take a look at our article 9 fun activities for you and baby
- “Babies listen to their mother’s voice in the womb”, Telegraph
- “The social abilities of newborns: Why babies are born to learn from our sensitive, loving care”, Parenting Science
- “Baby’s Nose Knows Mom’s Smell”, Web MD
- “Babies learn humour from parents: study”, Telegraph
- “The imitation game: can newborn babies mimic their parents?”, The Conversation