When babies are so young, they can’t verbally tell us they love us but we know they do (and hope they do!).
I found this great article on parenting.com, written by Meagan Francis, a mom of four, the author of Table for Eight: Raising a Large Family in a Small-Family World and wanted to share.
8 Ways Your Baby Says I Love You
0-6 months: Born to Love
Smiling, even for a split second.
You know those people who say that your baby’s early smiles are just gas or an involuntary reflex? Don’t listen to them. Recent research indicates that an infant’s grin may mean a lot more. The goofy newborn smiles may be your baby reflecting your own smile. He’s instinctively building a bond with you.
The first true social smiles start brightening moms’ days between 6 and 8 weeks. Your baby may smile when he sees your face — or Dad’s or a big sib’s. He’s starting to associate your face with feeling good. The bond deepens!
Staring at you, so intently it’s practically rude.
Right from birth, a baby can recognize his mother’s face, voice, and smell, says Laible. The next step is linking those sounds and smells he trusts with something he can see. That’s why he’ll start studying your face as if he’s trying to memorize it. In a way, he is. He’s making sure he knows what comfort — and love — looks like. So next time you catch your baby’s eyes locked on you, give him time to drink you in.
6 TO 12 MONTHS: Expressing that emotion
This is when it starts to get really fun. Babies past the 6-month mark are a lot more aware of the world around them and are developing new abilities practically every day. So your baby can now show her big-time affection for you in some pretty adorable ways:
Holding up her arms so you’ll pick her up.
Kerry Smith recently noticed that her 6-month-old son, Leo, has a new way of expressing whom he wants the most. “When someone else is holding him and I walk up, he’ll twist his body toward me and hold out his arms,” says the Prescott Valley, AZ, mom of three.
Many babies adore being held right from the start, but it takes about six months until they have the physical and cognitive abilities to ask for a pick-me-up. It’s a body-language expression of how much they’ve come to trust and adore their parents. And it can be enough, especially on one of those endless days, to make your heart lurch, too.
Smooching (sort of).
Sometime around a year old, your baby might start giving kisses — and they probably won’t be chaste pecks. Expect wet and sloppy ones that land (sometimes hard!) on whatever part of you is closest. “When I ask my daughter Evvi for a smooch, she crunches up her nose, tilts back her head, and then swoops up to my face and plants her lips on mine,” VA. “She totally melts my heart!”
Evvi’s enthusiasm shows she’s been paying attention to the way her mom shows affection, and she wants to do the same, says Richard Gallagher, Ph.D., director of the Parenting Institute at the NYU Child Study Center. Babies are eager learners when it comes to physical affection, and there’s no one they’d rather practice on than Mom and Dad.
Bouncing, wiggling, and cheering for you.
The way your baby acts when she sees you after a few hours — or a few minutes? You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re a bit of a rock star. This glee isn’t just cute; it’s a sign of the deep attachment that’s grown between you.
On the flip side are your baby’s wails of distress when you leave. It’s part of her development, and she’ll learn that you always come back. She understands object permanence now (you exist even when you’re not around), so it’s rough for her to know that the object of her affection is out there, and not here to snuggle.
Babies this age do their emotions big, so whether it’s heartbreak that you’re gone or earthshaking excitement that you’re back, one thing is clear: You are loved. By a tiny, crazy little person, yes, but loved.
12 TO 20 Months: Mom totally rocks
As your baby goes from blob to bright-eyed to whirlwind, the way he shows his love gets more complicated, too. In the early toddler stage, your child is exploring his little world and testing boundaries, and he relies on you — yep, because he loves you — to help him. It’s a busy time for a toddler, and that’s why the ways he expresses his love can seem indirect:
Doing what you do.
Whoever said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery must have known a toddler or two. Whether he’s lugging a briefcase down the stairs or cooing over a baby doll, he’s definitely showing how cool he thinks you are. Like all people — adults included! — toddlers imitate the activities and behaviors of the people they love most, says Laible.
Making a beeline for you when he’s hurt.
When Emily Cook of Calgary, Alberta, gets a scrape or a sniffle, nothing makes her feel better like rocking on her mom’s lap. The fact that your toddler runs to you for comfort — and then can dry his eyes and run off — means he loves and needs you.
Of course, you may also notice that your kid doesn’t have to be that hurt to come to you wailing. Even a minor accident can make for big drama if Mom’s around to see it. “Emily puts on this pout, coupled with dramatic sniffling. Then she throws in a big, unblinking stare that says ‘Poor me!’?” says her mom, Heather. Yes, there’s a plea for attention in there, but it really does make your baby feel better to get proof that you love him as much as he loves
Reserving bad behavior just for you.
What mom hasn’t heard “He was an angel!” when picking up a toddler from a sitter, then witnessed downright devilish behavior mere minutes later? Toddlers test limits with abandon — but most often with those people they love and trust. This isn’t exactly the warmest, fuzziest way your child will say he loves you. But that’s exactly what he’s doing. “You know you’ve done your job well if he can hold it together in public but saves his blowups for you,” says Elizabeth Short, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University. “He knows that you’re safe — he can act up and you’ll still love him.” You may never welcome a meltdown, but at least you can stop thinking your thrashing, screaming toddler is out to get you. He isn’t. He just loves you sooo much.
Meagan Francis, a mom of four, is the author of Table for Eight: Raising a Large Family in a Small-Family World.