Your developing infant or toddler is shifting all throughout the day between joy, anger, fear, contentment, and a variety of other emotions. During birth to 3 years old, children begin to learn how to self-regulate, discover and show interest in the world around them, communicate wants and needs, and imitate the actions and behaviors of their family. Imagine the magnitude of new information your child is discovering about his/her world and you, while simultaneously discovering the increasing ability to impact the world and people around them. It is unclear how newborns perceive or relate to all their new experiences. We can wonder about how they must feel when a parent’s voice and face leads them to smile or when being held and spoken to by an unfamiliar person leads them to cry. These are responses parents should encourage throughout baby’s first few months.
The late psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan, M.D. says “Your newborn is faced with two fundamental and simultaneous challenges during the first weeks of life. The first is self-regulation-the ability to feel calm and relaxed, not overwhelmed by her new environment. The second is to become interested in the world around her.” Children become interested in the world through their senses. Through touch, movement, sounds, sights, and tastes your baby learns to deal with both pleasurable and distressing experiences. When an infant is using her senses well, she can attend and calm for periods of time and take in her surroundings. Crying and/or fussiness are your babies way to communicate she is uncomfortable and may need to eat, sleep, and a diaper change. This shifting in and out of a calm attentive state to crying or fussiness is very inconsistent and can be frequent for an infant. Over time, your baby will learn to remain content and attentive for longer periods. This capacity to regulate and experience her world through her senses is a foundation for emotional development and encourages special interest in human relationships
To explore and consider if your baby’s emotional development is emerging and maturing, ask yourself the following questions: Does my baby (2+ mos.) sleep peacefully for a few hours at a time? Does my baby look at me and listen to my words? Does she attend and brighten when I speak to her? Does she demonstrate focused attention for several minutes throughout the day more frequently? If any concerns arise when considering these abilities, a TEIS therapist can help explore and possibly identify unexplained and prolonged fussiness or irritabilities, provide suggestions and adaptations to routines or home environment, and/or coach parents about your baby’s cues and one on one interactions.