By the fourth month, life with your new baby is gradually becoming less hectic. Perhaps you've even settled into a routine. Although there may still be an end-of-day fussy period, babies who were colicky are likely to be more peaceful, and even restless babies may be letting their parents sleep for six hours at a stretch.
Now the fun can really begin. Pediatrician Stanley I. Greenspan, MD, author of Building Healthy Minds (Da Capo Press), likens this stage of life with a baby to "falling in love," because by 4 months infants can begin giving back as much love as they receive. They are no longer simply crying or smiling, asleep or awake, but expressing complex emotions as they develop relationships with the people who care for them.
During the first few months of life, your baby's moods might have been dictated by the presence of gas bubbles or hunger pains, and whether her need to be comforted was being satisfied at the moment or not. Now, at 4 months, life is about more than sleeping and eating. Her brain development (and the fact that her digestive and neurological systems are more regulated) allows her to take a greater interest in the world and feel emotions like frustration, fear, curiosity, and enthusiasm. (Doctors can detect the first signs of anxiety and depression as early as 3 or 4 months.)Emotional Attachment
A stable, secure relationship with a loving caregiver is the best predictor of normal development in infancy. By now she has learned to associate the sight of you with pleasurable feelings, and she will respond accordingly as you round the corner of her room to pick her up from her crib. "Her eyes will light up as soon as she sees you, she'll give you a big smile, and it will be clear that she's delighting in your touch," says Dr. Greenspan. She may further demonstrate her pleasure in your company by moving her mouth, arms, legs, or whole body in rhythm with your speech, gazing raptly into your face, and answering your voice with gleeful sounds of her own even if she can't see you.
"You'll know that your baby has reached a new rung on the developmental ladder when she reacts to your emotions with her own," says Dr. Greenspan. Good indications that your baby is forming a close attachment to you include smiling back when you smile at her, relaxing when you hold her, cooing when she's touched or spoken to, and looking uneasy when you have to leave her.
Why is it possible for your baby to become more actively engaged in a relationship with you now, and not before? In addition to being better able to regulate her own bodily functions, from breathing to eating to sleeping, your baby's vision has improved, her sleep-wake cycles are more in sync with yours, her attention span is longer, and she's discovering that she can make things happen -- like flashing a smile and having you smile back.
Your job is to introduce your baby to the world, and the world to him. You will be his companion and guide, giving him the confidence to test out his curiosity while reassuring him that he is loved and safe no matter what his mood.