BABIES ARE ALWAYS LEARNING

This is where it gets to be fun. There are much more interesting things you can do with babies than just feed, change, comfort and rest them. The babe in arms is a voracious learning machine and you can give them lots of input.

Babies are learning all the time. They strive to make sense of the world. Gradually, carefully, you watch them piecing things together: where do you go when you leave the room?; what is that sound coming from the TV?; what happens if I poke you in the eye? They are learning to use their arms, as they flap them around and bump their hands into their own faces, and stroke and prod the soft skin of your breast as they feed. Within a few weeks, they can bring their fist to their mouth, and find comfort in sucking and chomping on their own fingers. Soon they can bring two hands together and know that, if they aim in a certain direction, they can make the dangling toys on their pram bob and jingle.

After a month or two, they will begin to show daily advances in their communication skills. As you go to place your baby in the cot for a nap, they may stiffen their limbs and wail, letting you know that sleep isn’t on the agenda just now. You’ll notice them in the bath, splashing carefully so as not to wet their face, when only weeks before they were alarming themselves with their splashing and bursting into tears.

You’ll find that you enjoy your child more if you learn to notice little changes. Experienced parents among your friends and relatives will often help by pointing out the baby’s new skills. For instance:

– ’Look how he knows his mother’s voice.’

– ’Look how she turned her head to watch you goby.’

– ’Did you hear that — that’s her crabby cry; she doesn’t want you to stop playing.’

– ’She’s lifting her head right up now — she didn’t do that last week.’

– ’Look, she doesn’t recognise me with this sunhat on.’

Teaching co-operation

Every day we carry out dozens of tasks with, on or around our babies. It’s really helpful if they learn to co-operate, making our lives and theirs easier. For instance:

– Lying on their back, peacefully playing with toys on elastic over their cot.

– Having a bath quietly and happily.

– Having their nappy changed without squirming too much.

– Sitting in a car seat or pram and being content and interested in what’s going on.

– Crawling, standing and, eventually, walking.

Sometimes babies acquire these skills easily, like a duck taking to water. Other times, we have to teach them to enjoy the experience.

The same guidelines apply to any new lessons you want them to learn.

Pick the right time. Choose times for learning, when the baby is bright, alert and relaxed. Good times may be after a nap or bath, or a short time after a feed when they are not too sleepy. Try again at another time, if this wasn’t successful.