How eye contact with your baby helps you to bond
One of the most magical milestones with your newborn is the first time you make eye contact. Nothing can prepare you for that incredible experience of meeting your baby’s gaze, with their big round eyes staring back up at you. This is when your connection truly starts to build and blossom.
But did you know that that sense of connection is more than a feeling – it’s scientifically proven! Studies have shown that by locking eyes, you’re becoming more in sync and deepening your understanding of each other. It’s also been observed that eye contact can help to build your baby’s communication skills and encourage their brain development.
Building a bond
As adults, we know the importance of eye contact when it comes to connecting with others. It can show compassion to loved ones, interest to important people in our lives, and a sense of true understanding in conversations. This importance only increases when it comes to your baby, helping to deepen your bond and form a strong connection.
Cambridge Neuroscientist, Dr Victoria Leong, has found that babies will respond to eye contact by becoming ‘more in sync’ with their caregiver. `“When the adult and infant are looking at each other, they are signalling their availability and intention to communicate with each other.”
No wonder we get such a wonderful sensation of joy and warmth when our little ones meet our gaze; we’re building that all-important bond between parent and baby.
Aiding growth & development
Communicating through eye contact isn’t just great for nurturing your relationship with your baby – studies have also shown that it can have a huge effect on their growth and development in those early formative years.
Dr Leong’s studies also showed that: “The more face-to-face infant communication you can give your child the better it is for their learning and development. In the first one or two years of life that’s crucial for learning.”
Your little one learns about the world through their surroundings and their caregivers. In fact, within their first 7 hours of life, some infants can already be seen imitating their mother’s facial expressions. Repeated eye contact helps your baby learn about interpreting and expressing emotions, as well as how to communicate and engage with others. This can then have a profound effect on their skills in later life.
Top tips for eye contact with your baby
It’s clear that this milestone is incredibly important for bonding, communicating, and developing – but how do you encourage your baby’s eye contact? If your little one is hungry, tired or upset, you may find it particularly difficult to meet your little one’s gaze. However, there are ways to gently encourage eye contact while your baby is content and alert.
Here are our top tips:
- In those early days after your little one is born, try holding them about 10-20 inches away from your face to help them focus and meet your gaze
- Try to wait until your little one is looking at you before establishing communication
- When they do look at you, don’t expect your baby to hold eye contact for long – make the most of it and use the opportunity to interact with them. Talk, smile, laugh, and sing to aid your baby’s development
- Try not to be the first one to look away! Hold that connection as long as you can (or as long as you have your baby’s attention)
- When your baby inevitably turns their head or switches their focus, don’t take it to heart. There’s a lot of information to take in from eye contact, and they may just need a break to process it all
Most of all, enjoy that wonderful feeling of truly connecting with your baby, and relish in the strength of the bond it creates.
For more parenting tips and advice, check out our blog.
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