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Parenting -- Understanding baby behaviour and awareness

( Suitable for 3-18 months )

How baby behaviour and awareness are related

Babies’ early experiences and relationships stimulate their brains, shaping the way they see and respond to the world. As your baby’s awareness of the world grows through these experiences, your baby develops and learns, and you’ll see many changes in behaviour.

Your baby soon learns to tell you apart from everybody else. Your baby’s relationship with you and other primary carers is the main way your baby learns about the world and how to respond to it. And your baby will learn a lot about how to behave by watching you.

** Your baby’s behaviour and body language can tell you what baby needs. For example, your baby will give you special cues when they need a feed or a sleep.

What makes your baby happy

Your baby will develop strong attachments to the most important people in their world. These are the people who make them feel loved, safe and secure. If you or your partner care for your baby most of the time, it’s likely your baby will prefer one or both of you to everyone else.

Likewise, your baby might love one toy much more than others.

So playing with favourite toys and being with favourite people makes your baby happy, and you’ll see this in your baby’s behaviour. When your baby is happy, they might smile and make happy noises. Your baby might even wave or clap their hands when they see their favourite people.

What makes your baby anxious

Your baby might become afraid of specific things, like the bath. And as your baby learns what to expect of life, the unexpected might really upset them. For example, your baby might start to be afraid of people they don't know or anxious or upset around people who aren’t important or familiar.

Also, once your baby understands you’re a separate person, they might be upset or cry when you leave because they don’t know that you’ll come back.

Fear of strangers and separation anxiety are very common and usually go away gradually throughout early childhood.

What interests your baby

Many things are interesting to your baby. That’s because your baby has so much to learn about the world.

Your baby will start experimenting with objects to see what they’re for. This might involve dropping your phone in the cat’s water dish or tipping the sugar bowl onto the rug. Everything will probably end up in your baby’s mouth too, because this is how babies like to explore objects. Your baby might also do things like biting, pinching or hair-pulling just to find out what happens.

Around 6-12 months is a good time to start setting gentle limits to form the basis of teaching your child positive behaviour in the future. For example, if your baby gets too close to the oven, you can say, ‘No, the oven is hot’. Then pick your baby up and move them to a safe area.

Your baby doesn’t understand danger, so it’s important to create a safe home environment, especially when baby starts moving. For example, it might be best to use a gate or some other way of keeping your baby out of the kitchen and away from hot cooking surfaces.

**Your baby will probably do things just to see how you react. You can smile and use a happy tone if your baby is behaving in a way that you like. Even if your baby is behaving in a way that you don’t like or that isn’t safe, it’s still important to respond calmly. This helps your baby feel safe. Your baby will soon learn that different tones in your voice mean different things.

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