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INFANCY: Child Development/Mental Health

SECTIONS: The Importance of a Loving Touch  ~  Comfort for a Fussy Baby  ~ Ideas for Calming your Baby Before Talking-Learning to Communicate  ~   Meeting New People  ~  Playtime  ~  Setting Limits  ~  Bedtime Routines


three babies cryingThe Importance of a Loving Touch
  • Your baby needs lots of love. He'll get to know you as the source of food, comfort, and affection. This helps build a strong, healthy, lifelong bond. It sets the tone for how he will respond to other close relationships as he grows.
  • An infant cannot be "spoiled" by too much cuddling and rocking, or by talking and singing. Responding quickly to cries teaches your baby that her needs will be met.
  • Dads are special too. Babies love to nestle on dad's shoulder and enjoy special playtime with him.
Comfort for a Fussy Baby
  • It's normal for babies to have fussy periods in the late afternoon or evening. Watch for cues that your baby is tired and needs to sleep.
  • Infant massage can help calm and relax, and helps your baby go to sleep more easily.
  • Use a baby swing if your health care provider says your baby is old enough.
  • Some babies can be difficult to calm no matter what—take a break and don't blame yourself if what you try isn't working. Never shake your crying baby in frustration as this can lead to brain damage. Talk with your health provider about other ways to calm your baby. Parenting can be overwhelming. If you ever think you might hurt your child, seek help. Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline—anytime (24/7) at 800-4-A-CHILD.
Before Talking—Learning to Communicate
  • Babies learn to communicate when you talk to them as you do everyday things like changing diapers, giving a bath, and dressing. Your baby will respond by looking at you, cooing, crying, and smiling to show his feelings.
  • Help your baby develop communication skills: 
    • Read to your baby. Name pictures as you point to them 
    • Play music and sing 
    • Imitate the sounds your baby makes 
    • Play baby games such as “pat-a-cake,” “peek-a-boo,” and “so big”
Meeting New People
  • Babies are usually eager to interact and play with others. However, they may be wary of people they don’t know well—even relatives. This shows they are building strong relationships with you or caregivers and is a positive sign of growth.
  • If someone new is meeting your baby, ask that person to give your baby some time to become comfortable with him or her.
  • Babies learn how the world works from their play, including peek-a-boo and drop the toy.
  • Toys labeled for your baby’s age will likely be safe and match interests and abilities. Start with rattles, mobiles, stuffed toys, and soft balls. Pots, pans, and wooden spoons will do, too. Avoid small toys with breakable parts a baby could choke on.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television or video viewing for children under age 2.
  • Babyproof and then give your baby opportunities to safely explore your home. For safety, keep an eye on your baby at all times. Your baby will feel safer knowing you are near.
Setting Limits
  • Teach your child what behaviors you expect. As babies begin to figure out how to move around and reach new things, continue to make play spaces safe so you won’t be saying “No” all the time.
  • Manage your baby’s behavior in a positive way. Replace an off-limits object with one that’s ok, or distract him with something new.
  • Try to keep rules consistent between parents, family members, and child care providers. Discuss behaviors that are allowed and those that are not.
Bedtime Routines
  • Help your baby develop a bedtime routine that signals the day is over. Include habits that let your baby help himself to get to sleep easily. This might help reduce night-waking. Read a book, sing a song, give your baby a bath
  • Ensure your crib is safe. The slats should be no more than 2 3/8” apart. Put your baby to sleep on her back on a firm, tight-fitting mattress with no soft bedding. This helps prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). For more information about safe sleep environments, call the Back to Sleep Campaign: 800-505-2742.