Just like mummy…
From a first smile to copying the way you talk to Daddy, your baby’s development is so exciting to watch and all part of a complex process making your baby a little person
When did you see your baby’s first smile? And when do you think he or she first recognised your face? Whether it’s eye contact as you give a feed, or pointing to a toy you’re holding up, developmental firsts are amazing mini moments in every mum and baby relationship.
We wanted to find out all about yours, so, along with our friends at LeapFrog and Practical Parenting & Pregnancy magazine, we ran a survey asking about all your little one’s firsts. And the results were amazing. Blowing raspberries, waving, even telling the dog off the same way as you do – one thing’s for sure, your babies are truly unique.
From fun to learning
Each of those little firsts isn’t just about a giggle though. Did you realise that each time your baby interacts with you or the world around her she’s learning and growing? Educational psychologist Charles Ward explains: “Babies are interacting right from birth. Obviously when a baby’s very young then her ability to perceive what her mum’s doing isn’t that good. But this ability develops quickly. Your little one’s hardwired to interact and it builds up as he or she gets to know you.”
Helping it happen
Reinforcing the behaviour will lead to repetition and the right outcome, says Charles. “Make sure you have comfortable physical contact, laugh, tickle and play with your baby. If your baby’s comfortable with you, those laughs and first moments will happen.”
But don’t rush to see those firsts. “It’s not a race,” Charles says. “Of course we talk about the ages at which babies develop and at which you can expect things, but these are average ages. Some babies will develop some skills early and some later.” The key is to enjoy each one as it comes. Today it could be a raspberry noise or a gurgle, tomorrow, pointing at a toy.
Little copy cats
Psychology Professor Karen Pine from the University of Hertfordshire explains: “The thing to remember is babies do vary quite a lot. You can’t force a baby to do something he or she isn’t ready to do. The best thing a mum can do is to be ready to reinforce the behaviour when you do see it happen, like smiling back, for example.”
Even newborn babies will imitate movement, Karen adds. “Tongue poking is very powerful. Babies know they’re equipped for communication. Babies learn a lot by copying. This’ll turn into copying their siblings when they get older, too. What babies really love are human faces and voices.”
And our survey agreed. Nearly a third of you said you think your baby knew your face before he or she was even 2 weeks old. How amazing is that? As your baby gets used to the world around her, she’ll gain more and more mastery of her own actions and her own little environment, and how to operate within the big, new wide world.
One first at a time
Don’t rush to see one thing before enjoying another, Charles says. “Pointing at something to actually alert you to it is quite a complicated cognitive process. Whereas you’ll often find a raspberry appears quite early as mums find it funny, and your baby will love it when you make that noise and that feeling on her tummy.
Blowing a raspberry is the beginning of communication and speech in some ways.” If your baby does smile, make a giggling noise, or even point, the best reaction is to repeat the action, talk, and involve yourself in the moment. Talk to her about what she just did, or hand her the thing she’s pointed to. For example, if she points at a pet, tell her it’s a cat.
Your firsts in figures:
- 48% of you saw your baby smile before 6-weeks, and 25% of you said you first saw that little grin at the mark.
- A quarter of mums said their baby first copied them at 4–5 months, and another quarter said at 6–7 months.
- 30.7% – the number of mums who think their baby recognised their face before they were 2 weeks old. 39.5% thought it happened between 2 and 4 weeks old. Just 1% think it took until 17 weeks.
- 11-13 weeks is the most likely time for a newborn to respond to or recognise his or her name.
- 48% – the number of mums who saw their baby laugh before 6 weeks old.