By Mary Moir
In it’s broadest sense communication the exchange of signals or messages between two aware beings. Even plants communicate, several species emit a chemical into the air when they are attacked by pests. The chemical triggers other plants of the same species to change the taste of their leaves so that they too are not destroyed.
Animals, birds, insects, fish communicate by a variety of means, body language, facial expression, sound, scent, basically the same ways that humans communicate.
Therefore it follows that every move we make, every sound is sending a message to other living things around us.
You can probably tell just by looking how people are feeling. You may often pass a woman on the street or in the supermarket that looks sad. You feel uncomfortable around some people because they seem to be angry all the time.
Has any one ever asked you what is wrong as soon as they see you?
Of course they have and you have done the same – we are experts at reading the small signs of communication from other people.
So too is your baby.
Your baby will pick up and react to your mood.
If you are feeling anxious or stressed you will be more tense around your baby, he will feel the difference in your touch, he will note any change in the tone of your voice. He will reflect back what you are feeling.
Be aware that you are constantly communication, be aware of yourself, try to manage your feelings around your baby.
Remember the baby’s first needs:
Food and warmth are delivered in a way that makes the baby feel safe and loved OR in a way that makes the baby feel that he is not wanted.
Regardless of what else is going on in your life your priority is to make sure that you give your child the best possible start in life. If you are feeling low, sad or any other way that makes you feel less than loving towards your child please seek professional help, you may simply be exhausted but you may be suffering from post natal depression – for both your sakes, if you don’t feel the way you think you should feel – get help.
It doesn’t take much to make a baby feel loved and safe. It’s in the way you talk to him, touch him, hold him AND it’s in the way you talk to the other people around you, especially the babies other parent. Just because you are not talking to your baby doesn’t mean he isn’t listening.
You get out what you put in – babies learn from their environment.
Probably one of the first things you did was look into your baby’s eyes. A baby may not be able to see clearly for some weeks after birth but he is aware of your face, your eyes and how near you are. As his eyes mature he will first recognize is Mum, then his Dad, and once he recognizes these faces he won’t want to go to anyone else and may kick up quite a fuss when passed to another person.
He is communicating that he doesn’t recognize this person and therefore doesn’t feel safe. He wants to be with the people he knows and trusts.
Soon his eyes will follow you around the room, he will look for you and to you to make sure everything is as it should be.
There is a special joy in looking into the eyes of an infant and seeing there the complete trust and love they have for you.
Soon eye contact and voice will be coordinated, as soon as your baby sees you he will make some sort of noise, and you, of course will be talking to him as much as you can.
Baby is looking at faces, he is looking into his parents eyes, they are looking back and talking gently and quietly to him, he makes lots of little baby noises, his parents copy his noises and maybe what he does with his face and hands. He soon learns that they will do what he does – and he will try to do what they do.
Watching listening and copying, that’s how babies learn. Make sure that you are doing the kind of things you want your baby to copy!
New parents are always very pleased to hear that their child is just like them – not only in looks but also in mannerisms. Looks they are born with, mannerisms they absorb from interactions with those closest to them.
How do children learn to talk?
Not just by learning words. Babies must first learn that communication happens between people, in the first instance, between the baby and its mother. Usually when a mother is feeding her baby she will gaze at the child and talk softly to it, she will smile and cuddle the baby. This baby learns that it is good to be with mother, she provides food, warmth and comfort, but also she is giving the child something else, she is talking to her baby, she is communicating with her child. In return the baby will follow her with his eyes, will smile and make voice sounds in response to the sounds the mother makes.
Most parents will cue into the baby’s responses and encourage them. Occasionally though there are babies born to mothers who don’t, for whatever reason, maybe illness or even the results of drug abuse, respond to their child’s attempts to communicate and understand the world he has been born into.
Evidence of early childhood deprivation was all too obvious in children discovered in Romanian orphanages in the 1980’s. These children had been abandoned by parents who could not care for them, they were taken into state care and simply kept in metal cots and fed. There was no love, no cuddles, no chatting, no toys, no stimulation. These children all appeared initially, to have some form of severe learning disability, when in fact what they were suffering from was a severe lack of any kind of intellectual or emotional stimulation so necessary to normal human development. Some of these children responded to intervention by aid workers and foster families who went into the country to try to help, but some will be emotionally disturbed for the rest of their lives.
It would be easy to say that that would only happen to children in extreme circumstances. NOT SO, experience in a range of settings in the U.K and NZ over the last thirty years has shown that there are children in families from all walks of life who are suffering from inadequate parenting.
Many of our children these days are left in the hands of inexperienced minders, or people who provide the bare minimum to meet statutory requirements to pick up a handsome monthly pay cheque. Many children these days find themselves born to young single mothers, who have no support and little idea of what a baby needs. In this age of working women and increased travel we have all but lost the extended family in many parts of this country. This means that there is not the wealth of experience available to young mothers to help them care for their babies. Gone are the grannies who were there to help out with time and advice. They are busy pursuing their own careers, or they may well be living at the other end of the country.
Statutory services are there to support and give advice to young families, but as with most other professional services there is a shortage of midwives and health visitors. In any case a visit once each week or fortnight is not really a lot of help, at best it allows the authorities to make sure that the child is not abused or neglected.
Earlier it was stated that you get out what you put in, this applies to society as well as the individual. If we as a society don’t place any value on nurturing and supporting the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society then we can expect to pick up the bill later on when they drop out of school, beat up other people’s grannies, get high on drugs etc.
If they haven’t been loved and valued then they won’t be able to love and value, it wasn’t put in so its not there to come out.
Safety and Security
Tiny babies quickly realise that when they cry mother will come to see them, she may pick up the child, she may simply soothe the child in the cot and talk to it, the baby feels comforted and secure.
If mother, or some other adult does not come when baby cries, baby begins to feel lost, insecure, so he cries a bit louder, still no one comes, this baby is now getting frightened, he can’t put things into words but his emotions or feelings are just as strong as anybody else’s. By now this baby is screaming, he is alone and afraid. One of three things can happen,
· mother can suddenly appear, she is concerned and worried, she really hadn’t heard the baby crying, she soothes the baby, cuddles him, may offer food, she will certainly talk to him and calm him down.
· Mother can appear shouting about the noise the baby is making, she can pick him up, she may check to see that there is nothing obviously wrong, she may shout at the child to be quiet, baby might even get a smack or a shake to make him stop the noise. Then he is put back in his cot and the door is shut.
· No one comes to see the baby, so he cries till he is exhausted, he falls a sleep alone and not understanding why no one came when he cried.
Which baby has had the best experience?
Which baby is going to trust that his mother will come when he calls?
Which baby will develop a feeling of security?
The above example does not mean to imply that if a baby is left to cry itself to sleep that it will be damaged for life. Rather that tiny babies need to be tended to so that they develop a sense of security. If the baby is crying and the mother is sure that there is not a problem, then all that may be required is some reassurance, a quick visit, a pat on the back for a minute or two, just to let the baby know that you are still around.
Every action communicates it’s own particular message to your baby. He learns by example, be careful about the example you set.
About the Author
Hi, I’m a survivor and I’d like to help you be a survivor too. Over sixty I recently separated so I’m walking the talk of getting my life back on track. Check out these links and share your story.