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Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health—Infants and Babies (Birth–12 Months)

Social-Emotional Development includes a child’s ability to understand himself, to control and change his own emotions, and to form relationships with others.

For infants and babies, the following skills will typically be developing:

1. Infants start to recognize familiar caregivers and interact with them more frequently than strangers.

2. Infants begin to prefer caregivers and family members that they spend more time with, and react negatively to strangers.

3. Infants notice other children around them, and will sometimes start to cry if another child is crying.

4. Infants use specific cries for different needs (hungry, need to be changed), and will often calm when a caregiver meets that need.

5. Infants start to find ways to calm themselves during stress, such as sucking on fingers or rubbing a soft toy.

6. Infants begin to respond to people and objects.

What can you do at home to help your baby develop these skills?

1. Spend time holding your baby throughout the day, and make sure that regular caregivers and family members also have frequent interaction with him or her. Play games using a mirror to look at faces.

2. If you use a new babysitter, be aware that your baby may need some time to warm up to the new caregiver. Plan to give them time to get used to each other before leaving.

3. Comfort your baby if he or she cries when hearing another child cry.

4. Pay attention to the different cries your baby uses, so that you can meet each specific need.

5. Provide soothing items for your baby, like a soft toy or pacifier; just don’t leave soft items in the crib when your baby is sleeping.

6. Respond to your baby’s coos, babbling, cries and smiles, and encourage your other children to talk to your baby too.

Learn more about social-emotional development:


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