Your baby's been growing fast during the past few months, making you fall in love with her in all kinds of different ways. According to Nancy Martin, a pediatric nurse practitioner in Austin, Texas, "All of the amazing things she's done to get your attention so far have been reflexive responses, 'built in' to get you to respond to her needs. She's already got you hooked, and she's just getting warmed up!"
Now your youngster is starting to do things on purpose, learning about her environment and the special people in her life—like you! Says Dr. Thomas Seman, a pediatrician at North Shore Pediatrics in Danvers, Mass., "You cannot spoil a child before 4 months of age. After that they will try to keep you tied around their little finger." Though every baby is one of a kind and develops at her own pace, there are some general guidelines to go by for emotional development in these second four months.
Smiles and More
While those baby smiles during the first few months were adorable, they were reflexive responses. Now, after watching you respond with smiles of your own, laughter, and a whole lot of baby talk, she's figured out that her actions can elicit a reaction. Martin explains that "a baby's smiles are just the beginnings of her social interactions. By 4 months of age, she knows just how to get you to smile and coo at her with just one little smile.
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By 6 months of age, she's added that full-belly laugh to her repertoire of social talents to get you to engage and laugh right along with her." And by 8 months, that's not all she can do! She'll clap her hands when she's excited, and maybe even throw you kisses or wave goodbye. This early social behavior helps her learn about her environment and, according to Dr. Seman, "with socialization comes attachment formation."
"Babies are curious by nature and by 4 months of age, that curiosity has propelled him to begin exploring his environment and everything in it," says Martin. There's a whole lot of world for a baby to discover, and he's beginning to develop an interest in finding out what there is to explore and what things can do. Now is when you'll see him do a lot of banging, shaking, poking, chewing, squeezing and even dropping. Yes, he's going to drop the same object on the floor over and over again just to watch you pick it up. Don't worry—he isn't trying to drive you crazy or help you get your aerobic exercise in, he's actually fascinated by the action and reaction. Just think of it as his very first lesson in physics. Martin says, "This period is when infants acquire a rudimentary understanding of an object's purpose.
After watching you all this time, he'll try to comb his hair just like you, 'talk' on the phone, and even try to imitate drinking from a cup." He's going to get you to help out with his explorations, too. Martin explains that "his curiosity will compel him to engage you in his exploration activities to further his understanding of his environment. At first, he will point to an object and wait for you to tell him what it is. After he's had an opportunity to take in this new information, he will begin to respond when you identify an object by name by turning or pointing to the item."