By the time baby is born, you have already formed a sincere attachment. She knows your smell, your voice and, very soon, your touch. Her eyesight is lousy at first, but she’ll see you—and everything else—more clearly and in full color in a few months. Meanwhile, your attempts at communicating with baby could feel one-sided. Hopefully, you’re forming a warm attachment despite baby’s lack of participation; otherwise, you might be feeling the baby blues or even postpartum depression, which requires medical attention.
You will start to get a feel for baby’s temperament as you spend time observing her habits, and especially if you have the chance to compare her to other tiny tots.
Is she high energy? Super sensitive? Easygoing? Extra cautious? Some traits are part of a passing phase—for instance, stranger anxiety peaks between 10 and 15 months but improves during the toddler years—while others are here to stay. Neville points to energy level and emotional intensity as traits that are typically long-lasting, even future-defining. She compares personality to a layer cake: The bottom layer is inborn temperament, but life circumstances and experiences pile on additional layers to form the person baby will become.
For now, hang in there with the high- pitched “motherese,” smiles and coos because many babies begin to return smiles around six weeks after birth. (Somehow, all the sleepless nights seem worth it when that gummy grin finally appears!) Do remember that a baby’s attention span is brief. Neville says to expect two to three minutes of good interaction, trading sounds and smiles, until she becomes overstimulated and needs to look away. By 7 months, she’s worked up a tolerance for about five minutes of social time.
Baby will begin to communicate through mimicking sounds by about 6 months, and truly “babbling” by 8 months. If your tyke isn’t going “bababa” or “mamama” at 8 months, she might simply be a late talker, but let your doctor know just in case. She can also communicate with sign language if you choose to teach her. Introduce a few basic signs around the time she learns to clap or wave. At this point, your little one will be capable of repeating signs once she becomes familiar with them. First words can come before the first birthday, but if not, no worries. She’ll have plenty to say in time!
Moving right along
In the early days, your bundle will appear bowlegged and curl into a ball, especially when placed on her tummy. Take pictures now because it takes only a few weeks for her physique to develop right out of the brand-new baby phase. She’ll throw her arms out when she’s startled—just a reflex, nothing out of the ordinary. Even in the beginning, she should be able to grasp an object, such as your finger, placed in her palm (again, not intentional, merely a reflex). Your peanut won’t have much control over her limbs, and their flailing might upset her, so rely on swaddling to keep her snug and secure at naptime.
Baby’s mind and body are developing rapidly. By 3 months, she’ll begin to hold her head up on her own and bring her hands together. You should notice her gaining strength in her arms and legs. At 5 months, your tot is rolling from front to back and reaching for playthings. From 6 months on, she’s putting toys in her mouth. She’s sitting by 7 months, starting to crawl from about 7 months or later, and standing by 10. If your bambino is a
late crawler or one who skips the crawling phase and goes straight to walking, it’s not necessarily a cause for concern. Still, it’s important to bring up any missed or delayed physical milestones with your pediatrician, so you can both keep an eye on things.
Remember: Just because someone else’s kiddo of the same age is crawling or walking doesn’t mean yours needs to be, too. A high-energy baby will likely crawl and walk early, but she was energetic even before birth, and she’s likely to stay that way for life. Other babies will take their time, refining fine motor skills rather than rushing to hit gross motor milestones. While you can encourage your sweetheart’s development with tummy time, practice and play, baby’s temperament is what it is. Just love her, and ignore the timeline!