New parenting can feel like a one-way street sometimes. After a series of sleepless nights of feeding, soothing cries, and changing diapers, a tired mom or dad might wonder, “Does my baby love me too?”
Child psychologist Penelope Leach says in a column for BabyCenter, “New parents worry a lot about bonding, namely about how to do it and whether they're doing it right.” But relax, mom and dad, she adds. As you continue to nurture and care for your baby, you will slowly but surely build that precious parent-child bond—and there are ways to tell.
Little humans express love and affection in subtle everyday ways that make them even more meaningful than any grand gesture or flowery love poem. Look carefully and spot these gestures of love from your baby:
1. Baby knows you by scent and sound (at 1 month old) The sound of your voice and the way you smell are part of your baby’s collection of favorite things in the entire world (milk is included in this list, of course).
He will turn his head towards you when you speak even when there are other people also talking in the room. And your scent has the same effect on him. “Even a 1-week-old will turn his head toward a breast pad soaked with his mother's milk,” says neuroscientist Lise Eliot to BabyCenter.
2. Baby smiles at you (2 months) For the first few weeks, a newborn’s smile may mean he’s passing gas. At around 2 months though, your baby will start to smile for you — yes, just for you. She’ll realize that smiling gets your attention! That heart-melting grin is her attempt at interacting and trying to get a reaction from you. Try smiling first and you might just get a smile back.
3. Baby can’t take his eyes off you (4 months) At around 4 months old, one of your baby’s favorite past times will be to look at you. He will love staring into your eyes just like how you love staring into his.
Don’t hold back your glee when this happens. Give him a warm smile or make funny faces. “Face-to-face interaction is part of how babies learn about positive give-and-take,” Linda Gilkerson, Ph.D., the director of the Irving B. Harris Infant Studies Program at Erikson University, told Parenting. Showing someone love gets you love in return!
4. Baby is “nangingilala” and asks you to carry her (6 months) Your baby may be perfectly fine and content at being carried by Tita, but when you enter the room she wiggles and excitedly stretches her arms out for you. “You want mama?” you ask her.
“Basically, what’s happening is that babies discriminate among very familiar attached figures in their life, versus others who might be perfectly nice and fine, but not attachment figures,” Pete Stavinoha, Ph.D., a child neuropsychologist, told TheBump. Because to your little one, nothing can compare to being in mom or dad’s loving arms.
5. Baby likes to “check in” on you (7 months) Babies start to crawl at around 7 to 10 months. With this newfound freedom, she’ll be scooting all over the place trying to explore the world around her. After a while, she’ll come crawling back to you and then is off again! She likes checking in on you to see if you’re still there.
“That checking-in behavior is a healthy, normal thing to do,” says Stavinoha. “The child is starting to venture out and establish her independence a little bit, but mom and dad still represent safety and security.”
6. Baby cries when you have to leave him (8 months) It can be hard to head out the door in the morning when you hear and see your baby crying for you not to leave. It’s not the most pleasant gesture of love, but it’s a good sign, mom.
Take comfort in knowing that separation anxiety is a sign that you have a meaningful attachment and bond with your little one. So, cool the mommy guilt. In time, your baby will learn that you’ll always come back to him.
7. Baby loves giving you kisses (12 months) At around a year old, your baby will start to copy your affectionate behaviors towards her, like when you give her kisses. Your baby’s kisses will be sloppy, wet, and can be hard (she can’t quite get the hang of puckering her lips yet) but you’ll love them all the same. And, when she sees that her kisses bring happy responses from you, she’ll start to do it more often.