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How Your Baby Shows They Love You

From the moment we hear our child’s first cry and the moment they are placed on our chest, our worlds are never the same. For the rest of our days we live and breathe for that child - wanting only what’s best for them. As mothers, it’s our mission to show them love, nurture their growth, ensure their safety, and help them thrive. Unfortunately, worry and doubt is another real part of motherhood. It’s completely natural to worry and wonder if the choices you’re making for your baby are the right ones. But the good news is, there really is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to following your motherly instincts. You know your baby best and there’s no doubt that your choices will help them to grow and flourish in life.

But have you ever felt yourself wondering if your baby loves you back? Before they’re verbal, infants show small signs of love and affection toward their parents. Do you know what these signs are and what to look for? We’re here to break down 10 ways that your baby shows they love you. These will surely warm your heart.

1. Smile

We all know the familiar gassy smiles that some infants give. Those are different from genuine smiles that show delight, happiness, and recognition of familiar faces. At approximately 3 months old, your baby may actually begin to smile at you. Up til this time your infant may express what’s known as a reflex smile. These smiles happen at random, for no particular reason, and are short in duration. You’ll know the difference between a reflex smile and a real smile based on timing. Your infant’s real smile will happen in reaction to something or someone - including you entering the room or their line of vision. A real smile also indicates that your infant’s vision is improving and their brain and nervous system are maturing.

2. Wiggles and Squirms

If your baby is not yet mobile, they have limited ways to express their excitement. This means they can’t exactly jump for joy or run up for a hug when they see you. But they can wiggle their body in their seats, kick their arms and legs, and maybe even clap their hands. When people say a child’s eyes “light up” when they see their parents, it’s true. A smile isn’t the only expression of delight that a baby can show. If your infant makes noises and can’t seem to control their movements in your presence, it’s a pretty sure sign that they’re super happy to see you!

3. Reach for You

Though after several months of hearing the word “up” paired with your child’s extended arms, you might wish for their increased independence, your child’s outreached arms are a sure sign that they love, want, and need you near. Though your infant likely always enjoys being held, you’ll notice them actually reaching for you with open arms around six months of age. This is when your baby has developed the cognitive ability to know what they want and signal for it. Outreached arms are also a sign of trust. Your infant has grown to feel safe and secure in your arms. If that’s not enough to make your heart melt, I’m not sure what is!

4. Imitation

People say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. This definitely holds true for babies and their parents. Though they primarily look to you for comfort, food, and attention, your infant is watching you and internalizing what you say and do. Little ones are always watching! This means that when your child pulls out a bowl and spoon and pretends to whip up dinner in the kitchen right alongside you, it’s because they admire you. But signs of imitation can actually begin as early as four months. Think of peek-a-boo or other games that involve you making silly faces with your baby. If you stick out your tongue, does your baby copy you? The more you laugh and engage in this back and forth play, the more your infant will love the exchange.

5. Cries in Your Absence

Although this is a heartbreaking part of motherhood, the fact that your infant cries or even becomes unconsolable in your absence, is a sure sign that they love you dearly and want you near. This is also a sign that your baby distinguishes the difference between you and other adults. Object permanence is another concept that your child develops around 12 months of age. Object permanence is the idea that just because an object is out of sight, doesn’t mean it has disappeared forever. Though it feels like you’re torturing your little one by leaving them in tears, you’re actually helping to solidify their trust in you that you’ll return for them. This is an important concept in a child’s development and their reaction is normal.

6. Says “Mama”

Those two little syllables strung together that every mother waits to hear - and hopes to hear before “dada”. When your baby begins making distinguishable sounds, be sure that one of the first words they’ll say is “mama”. There are a couple of reasons why “mama” and even “dada” are often two of a baby’s first words, and one is because you’re the most important person in their world. Your child will develop a desire to become social and acknowledge those around them by name. Another added bonus is that the sounds that comprise the word “mama” are easy for a baby to make. Trust me, once they’re able to, they’ll be just as delighted to say “mama” as you will be to hear it.

7. Looks to You for Comfort

Your baby feels safe and secure in your presence so it’s not a real surprise that if your child is hurt or scared that you are the first person they seek out. This is because they know they’re safe with you. If your child is mobile and they take a spill or tumble, be prepared that they will come running to find you first. Even if there are other familiar adults around, your child will seek you out and likely not stop crying until they find you. At an even earlier age, infants seek comfort from strangers by burying their heads in your chest or turning away from others while you’re holding them. This is your infant’s way of saying, “I don’t know this person but I know mommy will keep me safe.” And your baby is right.

8. Gives Kisses

Who doesn’t love a big, slobbery, open mouthed kiss right on their cheek? It doesn’t sound too pleasant when described that way, but when you know it’s coming from your little one as a sign of true affection, you’ll welcome it every time! It’s no doubt that you’ll be giving your baby endless kisses from the moment they’re born, but it’s not until about 12 months old that babies possess the communication and motor skills that allow them to return the smooch. Giving kisses is actually another form of imitation. Your baby knows how much you love them and that you often show it by placing your lips on their face and maybe even making a “muah” sound with your lips. So it’s only natural that they’ll want to return the favor and show their love for you in the same way.

9. Recognizes You

Many of the signs mentioned throughout this article - smiles, wiggles, and cries - are all indications of this anomaly - that your infant actually does recognize you! Your face, your voice, and even your smell, are all recognizable to your infant. Your child’s ability to recognize you has a lot to do with the bonding that occurs between mommy and baby even before they enter this world. Your infant heard your voice and your heartbeat throughout your pregnancy. They’ve felt skin to skin contact as you’ve fed them and felt you rock them to sleep. They know you respond to their cries and attend to their needs. There’s no doubt that your baby knows who you are and will recognize you and welcome your presence.

10. Stares at You

It’s not wonder why you can stare at your baby for hours on end. Whether they’re sleeping, playing, or eating, your infant is beautiful and fascinating, causing you to stare at them lovingly. But have you ever noticed that your baby is staring back at you? Have you watched their eyes dart from side to side and move over the different features of your face? Your baby stares at you because they love you. Babies love to look at people’s faces and yours is their favorite and most recognizable. Their gaze is also part of their inherit need to attract love and affection from those around them.

Look for the Signs

Now that you know the small signs to look for when it comes to your infant’s love, you can relish in those wiggles, smiles, and wet kisses!

April Sutphen

I am a 32-year-old mother and wife of a police officer living in NJ. I have my MFA in creative nonfiction and 10 years writing experience. When I'm not writing I enjoy hot yoga, cardio kickboxing, running, and camping.

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