When your baby knows she’s a baby!

Our baby psychologist reveals at what age your infant knows she's different to you and just why she suddenly starts crying when you move out of the room


Right from birth, your baby has some understanding that she is separate from you and this self-awareness continues to grow during her first year.


When she’s a bit older and shakes her rattle to make a noise, for example, she squeals with delight because she knows, “That’s me doing that!” Later on, she recognises herself when she looks in a mirror and she knows that when you use her name you’re referring to her specifically. These are signs that her self-awareness is growing.

How your baby’s self-awareness develops from birth to 4 months

When you hold your tiny baby in your arms, she knows who you are – and she also knows that you and she aren’t the same.

Your baby is a bit like a scientist, and her self-awareness grows as she explores. Initially, in her young mind, there are no limits – at least not until she comes up against them. That’s why she gets frustrated when she can’t get what she wants – the up-side is that she’s learning about her own abilities.

How your baby’s self-awareness develops from 4 to 6 months

Although most babies love mirrors, at this stage she doesn’t yet know that she’s looking at herself – that will only come a few months later. She is totally fascinated by her own reflection and the reflection of other people and objects, and she stares curiously at these images.

From 4 months onwards, your baby tries harder to reach and grasp objects. As her self- awareness develops, she realises she can adjust her movements to reach her goals. Now when she reaches out for something she thinks more carefully, changing the movement of her hand and fingers as she gets nearer the object. When her hand goes off course, she recognises this, thinks “Steady, I can do it,” and brings it back to its proper path.

How your baby’s self-awareness develops from 6 to 9 months

Don’t be surprised if this is the time when your baby starts to cry when you move away.

Until now, she wasn’t too concerned when you weren’t there and she coped well with temporary separations. Now she’s more aware of herself – and therefore of others too – she may become distressed when you walk out of the room.

Comfort and cuddle her, reassuring her that you’ll only be away for a moment or two and that you’ll be right back. Of course, she doesn’t understand what you’re saying, but your tone, body language and facial expression will give her a sense of safety.

How your baby’s self-awareness develops from 9 to 12 months

Your baby’s self-awareness surges forward as she starts to recognise the different ways in which she can influence the world around her.

Her understanding of cause and effect began to develop in the first few months of her life, but as she reaches the end of her first year she starts to use this ability for more practical purposes. 


Ways to encourage your baby’s self-awareness

  • When you chat to your baby, call her by name. This helps her form the association between herself and the world
  • Toys that react with sounds or lights when she touches them will help to develop her understanding of cause and effect
  • Letting her look into a child-proof mirror is a good way to help her self-awareness develop
  • Allow her some time alone. Although she loves spending every minute of the day with you, she learns about  herself by being allowed to play on her own as well


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