Cues and Attachment

All babies need their parents and caregivers to provide sensitive, responsive attention to them. When you do this, your baby learns to trust you and forms an attachment to you.

Your baby will send cues to you when he is ready for you to engage with him, and will send different cues when he has had enough.

  • Crying: babies cry when their feelings are out of control. They cry when they are hungry, tired, bored or in pain. Find more on crying here.
  • Facial expressions: quivering lips and furrowed eyebrows usually mean your baby has had enough stimulation, and just needs some comfort, or some down time. A smile means she is ready to engage with you.
  • Eyes: wide open eyes are an indication your baby is ready for more contact. An averted gaze means, please stop whatever you are doing.
  • Gestures: even small babies can bat things away, when they are tired or irritable. And they quickly learn to hold their arms up, when they want to be picked up.

Your baby’s cues are signals for you to provide some attention, but what kind of attention? Here are a number of different ways you can engage with your baby:

  • Soothe him
  • Feed him
  • Hold and cuddle him
  • Provide body contact, or skin-to-skin contact
  • Show affection
  • Gesture back – mimic him
  • Change your facial expression
  • Sing, hum, whistle
  • Talk to him as if he can understand you
  • Do some physical activities, like running, skipping or jumping together

If your baby is feeling hurt, sick, upset, sad, frightened or lonely:

  • Comfort and reassure her by holding, kissing, and talking quietly and calmly
  • Take her to a quieter environment where it is calm

You can make it easy for your child to become attached to you by paying special attention to her when caring for her daily physical needs. For example, during:

  • Feeding – hold your baby comfortably, looking at your baby face-to-face, this is an opportunity to hold your baby skin-to-skin
  • Diapering/dressing – talk, sing, smile, and play games, such as peek-a-boo
  • Sleeping – sing a pre-nap song, recite a rhyme or tell a story, hold and rock your baby
  • Bathing – talk about the body parts as you wash and dry your baby