The healthy development of your child sets the stage for their future success in school and in life. Many factors will contribute to his or her development and interest in learning—health, nutrition, vision and hearing—and above all, your and other caregivers’ support and stimulation, starting at birth.
As Dr. Harold Ireton acknowledged decades ago when he first identified a child’s developing skills from infancy to school age, children are social beings. They have a strong interest in being with and being accepted by others.
A child’s social-emotional development creates the context in which they develop and exercise all of their other abilities, e.g., motor skills and language skills. That’s why it’s so important for parents and caregivers to help foster their child’s social-emotional development whenever and however possible.
We’ve identified four important social-emotional milestones for you to watch for, promote, and celebrate during baby’s first two months.
0 months: Baby quiets when fed and comforted
Crying is baby’s first and most effective way of communicating with you. I’m tired. I’m hot. I’m cold. I’m hungry. I’m thirsty. I have a wet or poopy diaper. Soothing your baby becomes somewhat of a guessing game, but most often, simply feeding and comforting him or her does the trick.
Create a calm environment with dim lights and calming music; then, gently shush and sway baby.
0 months: You and your baby make true eye contact
Toward the end of the first month, baby is able to focus with both eyes on things eight to 12 inches away. So, when you make eye contact with baby at this age, he or she is able to begin returning that eye contact. Yes, something as simple as locking eyes with you indicates that your little one’s brain growth and ability to communicate are progressing.
Help strengthen baby’s eye muscles by giving him or her high-contrast patterns to look at, e.g., a checkerboard or stripes. And, be sure to give him or her plenty of up-close time and hold objects close enough for baby to focus on.
Don’t fret if eye contact doesn’t happen right away…it could take up to three months for your loving gaze to be returned.
1 Month: That first social smile appears
It’s possible that baby has smiled before now, but that smile likely resulted from a random reflex, or simply was caused by gas. At 1 month, look for a “real” smile to occur. With improved vision, baby’s been studying your smiling face, and practicing making mouth movements. He or she also is connecting more deeply with you and other familiar adults, and is exploring ways to show that connection.
2 Months: Baby recognizes mom or dad or other primary caregiver
By this age, babies typically recognize their primary caregiver’s face, having studied it up close for a number of weeks. That said, baby has recognized mom’s voice since before birth, having heard muffled talking from inside a rather noisy womb. It’s just been a matter of linking that voice to a particular face. And those aren’t the only senses driving recognition; when just a few days old, a baby can distinguish mom’s particular scent, especially when breastfeeding.