NEWBORN’S BEHAVIOUR AND COMMUNICATION

Babies call up considerable emotion in us — that is their survival skill. The earliest communication between baby and parent takes place through emotional cues which may even start before birth. It is through the sharing and understanding of that emotion that a parent is able to identify what is going on with a baby, and respond instinctively. Parent and child become emotionally attuned.

A baby has the ability, through his behaviour, to elicit the care of others. Parents are soon able to distinguish the nuances between a ‘pooey nappy cry’ and a ‘feed me’ cry. Facial expressions and gurgling often make parents melt with coos or giggles of love. Your baby may be small, but he is a powerful communicator and knows how to make his needs known.

Many parents feel ambivalent about having a child. If the parents are unable to acknowledge their true feelings, they run the risk of not being able to tune into the child appropriately. We all want to produce a beautiful child as a product of love. If, for example, a couple have a deformed baby, it may be very difficult for them to verbalise that their child is not physically beautiful. Yet this is often exactly what needs to be done.

The parent-infant relationship is important in the continuing development of the child. Parents provide emotional nourishment for the child, and studies have shown that without consistent parenting children may become withdrawn and may not develop normally.

A child’s sense of self is thought to develop at around 7-9 months. He begins to recognise that there is a shared world and also begins to learn to abstract, realising that pointing leads to something beyond the finger. From early infancy, an enormous amount of learning takes place in the relationship with the parents, through the ‘mirroring’ of facial expressions and voice. This is more than just mimicking; it is a tuning-in to each other’s emotional experience. Emotion is how we all began to communicate. It can provide a special intimacy beyond the limitations of words. In many ways emotion is still the most powerful language that we have.

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