Ever wish your baby came with an instruction manual? No doubt it would help, since trying to figure out his wants and needs is never straightforward.
"One of the toughest challenges for new parents is to learn to decipher their infant's cues," says Katherine L. Rosenblum, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. "Sometimes you can figure out what he's trying to tell you right away; other times, you completely miss the mark. And that's okay as long as you keep trying."
To help you get a handle on what's going on in your baby's brain, we asked our experts about four situations that parents most often misread. Here's the scoop.
Your 3-week-old flashes you a smile.
You think: My baby loves me!
What's actually going on: While those toothless grins can melt your heart, they don't mean much at this stage. In fact, before 6 weeks, those sweet smiles most likely result from a pleasant sensation (like a light massage) -- or they could just be a release of pent-up energy. "It isn't until sometime between 6 and 12 weeks that infants begin to have social smiles -- a responsive behavior in which you smile at your baby and she beams back at you," says Parents advisor Ari Brown, M.D., coauthor of Baby 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for Your Baby's First Year. Even then, a baby doesn't discriminate -- she'll smile at everyone. At around 4 months, she develops what experts call "selective social smiling," which means that your baby reserves her biggest grins for her parents and anyone else with whom she's formed a close relationship.