How baby learns to respond to you

Practise your new bond-with-bubba skills and you’ll be surprised how much stronger your connection becomes.

Establishing a secure connection between the two of you depends on effective communication — so, you’ll need to recognise bubba’s subtle cues to be able to respond more effectively. These easily understood responses will instantly reward and renew your baby’s efforts, while the frequency and depth of your interaction skyrockets, even as your bond deepens.
         Bonding strongly with your child operates on a chemical level, too: The release of the hormone oxytocin that occurs during a close moment between mother and baby can literally change your child’s life.
         Your baby was born with an instinctive wish to interact with you and they’ll use all their senses to form a strong bond. So, listen to what they have to “say” and discover who this little person is. They are trying to make you out, too! 


When your baby is born, they already have the skills to immediately recognise and bond with you. “A newborn is very quick to develop a relationship with their mother, who is usually their main means of survival,” says Dr Victoria Southgate, a developmental cognitive neuroscientist.
         They can recognise your voice and hearing it soothes them, even when they are asleep. They also know your scent and the smell of your breastmilk. Use these senses to communicate with your baby with skin-on-skin contact and gentle chatter.
         At birth, your baby’s vision is unfocused and they can only “see” up to a distance of 30cm. “Your baby can detect if you are looking at, or away from them,” Dr Southgate explains. “It’s important to them that you look at them.” They’ll recognise you by the shape of your head and your hairline — which is why they may be upset if you appear with your hair up!
         They communicate mainly by crying, to prompt you into action and remove the cause of their discomfort.

Your baby was born with an instinctive wish to interact with you and use all his senses to form a strong bond.

01 month

After four weeks of life outside the womb, your baby has made huge strides in their ability to communicate. They can now focus their eyes and see details of your face. “A baby is intently interested in faces,” says Dr Southgate. “It's important if they’re going to learn vital skills such as language.” They’ll be happy to gaze at yours for minutes at a time — so let them!

          They will also begin to smile purposefully now. Previously, their smiles will have simply been practice, but they now respond directly to you, in particular, to your voice. “All babies instinctively start to smile at a very similar age,” Dr Southgate notes.
         “And if you support this early behaviour by copying it and smiling too, they’re likely to do it more. Most parents imitate their babies instinctively and that’s crucial to a baby’s learning.”


02 months

Watch carefully and you will notice, from around 6 weeks, your baby will start to open their mouth and move their tongue purposefully. They might also move their hands or arms at the same time. This is called “pre-speech” and is your baby’s latest communication skill.
         “Recognise that your baby is trying to communicate with you,” says Dr Southgate, and talk back. This is crucial. Research shows that babies are not persistent. If you don’t respond, they’ll stop trying. And those babies will learn less than those who get an appropriate response.
         They’ll also have started to make vocal sounds. At first, these will be vowel sounds such as “ooo” or “aaa”, and your baby may get upset if you don’t copy or respond to their efforts. They’ll listen intently to you — watch and you may see them move their body in time to your speech.
         They have good control of their eye muscles now, so your face becomes far clearer. Don’t underestimate how much they still enjoy looking at it.

What comes next? Learn how baby learns to move and babble at you…