At birth, your baby has nearly no concept of "self." In other words, he doesn’t really know “who” he is himself, nor does he understand that he is separate from those who take care of him. When your baby takes the nipple when hungry, he perceives the nipple as an integral part of himself. He doesn’t know where his body ends and the outside word begins. Self-awareness develops during the first year, and as this happens, he realizes that discomfort originates within himself, and that relief, in the form of a bottle or breast, comes from an external source. The end of the first year is a very significant milestone in your baby’s emotional development. The essence of the bond between baby and mother, or other primary caregiver, is formed. The quality of this bond will determine your baby's approach to the world around him: if it is a pleasant place, if there is someone to rely on, if he can count on himself and others. Or will he grow suspicious, lack confidence and trust, or believe that he cannot make things happen to meet his own needs.
During her first year, if your baby has received consistent, sensitive care that was focused on her needs and responses to her signals, she will have come to expect safety and security, and believe that there will always be someone there to satisfy her needs. This is the foundation to developing secure attachments and trust. This also helps build her own self-confidence, as she understands that she can do what it takes to be understood – and that she deserves and will get help if needed. A baby raised this way internalizes the personalities of her loving, understanding and caring parents and caregivers, and will grow up to be able to offer others the same kindness and love she received. At the same time, it is important to understand that your baby – as well as all of us – possesses inborn traits and temperament. These traits are evident in the way your baby articulates emotions and how she reacts. For example, one baby reacts strongly and becomes very agitated to new things; another will process calmly and approach new situations with gusto. These different characteristics of your baby's temperament affect the way she perceives and experiences the world. There is a reciprocal relationship between you and your baby. When your baby is calm, and acclimates well to new situations, it is easier for you to pick up on his signals and understand her needs. On the other hand, you aren’t the first parent to find it difficult to understand what a colicky, cranky baby wants! If your baby is calm and easy-going, it is easy caring for her; and if she is cranky and overly sensitive, you may often feel frustrated and emotionally drained. Both affect the quality of care you offer. Your reactions to a cranky, irritable baby may increase her irritability and in fact, make the volatile behavior worse. On the other hand, if your temperament is calm and patient, this can help her learn to control and regulate how she expresses her emotions and may help to gradually stabilize volatile behavior. The greater harmony there is between your temperament and the baby's, the better the chances are to provide sensitive care and satisfy your baby's needs.
Your baby needs you to be sensitive to his needs and respond to his signals. He needs you to help him identify his own emotions, and learn to understand, regulate and control them. During the first months, answering your baby's needs is not "spoiling" him: it is the cornerstone of his emotional development. As you meet his needs, you are teaching him to express emotions. When you try to calm him, you teach him ways to calm himself. When you encourage him to experiment with new things, you are expressing your confidence in his abilities. You must be thinking that all this sounds fine and good, but satisfying a screaming baby in the middle of the night is a lot harder than it sounds! Try to remember that it is the effort that counts. In everyday life, there are going to be plenty of times when you fail to understand what it is your baby needs when he cries with frustration. Don't worry if this happens. Your baby understands that you are trying, and this has a lot of value in and of itself. Remember: your baby doesn't need a "perfect" parent for healthy, normal development; he needs a parent that keeps on trying. As your baby waits for you to understand what it is he wants, he learns to raise his threshold of frustration and patience. He also receives an important lesson that you and he are not one, but rather separate beings. This will help him more easily separate emotionally when the time comes. And most important, remember that raising children is not one long journey of uninterrupted joy and happiness. It comes with rough spots along the way, including frustration and negative feelings. But don’t feel guilty about this. Negative feelings, anger, disappointment and frustration come with the territory. Your ability to admit and face these feelings will help pave the path toward a real attachment and bond with your child, showing him that sometimes real, natural feelings are not always pleasant. This will help him accept himself, and offer a wonderful lesson in expressing the rainbow of feelings he will experience as he grows, develops and reaches adulthood.
Any advice and information provided in this website is given as suggestions only and should not be taken as a professional medical diagnosis or opinion. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent.