Many parents are surprised when their little ones demonstrate strong feelings of affection -- does a baby or toddler actually have the emotional skills to show such feelings? The answer is a resounding yes. Most children form deep, loving bonds with their parents and friends from a very early age. It starts before a child can verbally express his likes or dislikes, according to Lawrence Cohen, PhD, author of Playful Parenting (Ballantine). Even newborns feel attachment from the moment they're born!
During their time in the womb, babies hear, feel, and even smell their mothers, so it's not hard to believe that they're attached right from birth. But as any adoptive parent will tell you, biology is only part of the love story. Young babies bond emotionally with people who give them regular care and affection. In fact, the first step in ensuring that your baby will bond with others is to attend to his needs in a timely fashion and let him know that he's loved. A baby is dependent on caregivers for everything from nourishment to safety, so her initial bond is very strong, explains D'Arcy Lyness, PhD, a child psychologist and psychology editor for KidsHealth.org. It also sets the standard for what a baby expects in later relationships in terms of emotional security, trust, and predictability. All of your loving care comes back when your baby reaches or babbles to you.
We've all heard that imitation is a form of flattery. This is true for babies too. In fact, imitation is a way in which babies show their preference for certain people over others. You'll see that between 3 and 6 months of age, your baby will try to mimic your actions.