ENGAGING YOUR BABY
UNHEARD CHILD SERIES:
Unheard Baby part 3
Interactions between mothers and babies at four months have been studied extensively to see how they communicate non-verbally by New York City research psychoanalyst, Dr. Beatrice Beebe among others. I had the privilege to study with Dr. Beebe for several years. It has generally been found that mothers who identify the meanings of the non-verbal actions of their infants’–faces, eyes, and heads–communicate well and have secure attachments to their infants. Identifying the meanings behind infant’s behaviors is using Parental Intelligence .
‘HOW I AFFECT YOU, MOMMY”
“HOW YOU AFFECT ME”
Think about face-to-face interactions between mother and baby. The research is about mothers and babies but it seems reasonable to assume it would be true about fathers and babies, too. Babies are active participants in communications with their mothers. By three to four months infants can anticipate or expect how they affect changes in their mothers after they do something. They can also anticipate how changes in their mothers affect them. In other words, babies know “How I affect you, Mommy” as well as “How you affect me, Mommy!”
- When baby and mother face each other they imitate each other varying their facial expressions having a grand ‘ole time.
- When the mother is attentive and reads her baby’s face carefully for meaning, she may notice the baby is avoiding her face: mommy faces baby and baby turns her face away.
- Sometimes mommy and baby look into each others’ eyes and there is “eye-love!”
- Sometimes mommy looks and baby looks away.
THE BABY’S BEHAVIOR
It is important how a mother interprets her baby turning his face or eyes away. If the mother misperceives her infant, she might think he doesn’t like her or isn’t interested in her. She may then pursue or chase her baby by calling his name, grabbing his hand, or turning his head to him to look at her or face her.
Here is where Parental Intelligence comes in. The baby probably just needs a rest from the stimulation. We all do this. We don’t stare or look and face each other endlessly. We take breaks and turn away. This is understanding the meaning of the behavior.
If you give your infant time, she will re-engage you when she’s ready. You are understanding your infant’s mind. This is a great example of using Parental Intelligence. If however you pursue her because you don’t understand her mind, she may avert or turn her head away more and more to dodge you.
CHASE AND DODGE INTERACTIONS
Dr. Beebe coined the phrase: chase and dodge. This action between mother and infant is based on a misperception of the mother when she thinks she has to get the baby back or he won’t want her. This can create an insecure attachment if it is prolonged. When the mother does understand the meaning of the behavior, takes a turn away and then re-engages with his mother, you will see the baby’s big open mouth “gape” smile! This is when the mom paused and allowed her baby to speak his non-verbal language. This is Action Dialogue at its finest.
Learn more about infant research.
Read more about promoting babies’ intelligence.