How do you raise a happy baby? This is a question that many new parents ask themselves. In the first few weeks of their life, keeping your baby fed and dry seems like the most obvious answer, but if you really want to rear happy babies, then there are some key activities that you'll want to consider adding to your routine!
Why Is It Important for Babies to Be Happy?
We all want our kids to be happy and healthy, but before four months of age, this adorable little person is simply, well, a little lump of cuteness. That sounds harsh, but before this point, they cannot see clearly, their personality hasn't emerged, and they normally don't laugh. So why should you strive to keep them any more than content?
Early Happiness Impacts to Future Mental Health
First, research shows that infants who experience stress in their first two months of life are more likely to have issues with their central nervous system functioning in their future. This can affect their ability to self-regulate, build relationships, and even think rationally throughout their childhood.
Early Happiness Plays a Positive Role in Academics
Second, additional studies show that having a happy baby "is linked to gold standard indicators of cognitive abilities and adult academic success." More specifically, this research showed that a positive impact on an infant's happiness "directly predicted higher childhood IQ (ages 6-8) and higher educational attainment (age 29), even after controlling for family socioeconomic status and infant intelligence."
In other words, having a happy baby can set an outstanding foundation for their future. The question remains, how can you tell if your baby is happy if they haven't started smiling or laughing?
Signs You Are Raising Happy Babies
With a baby, body language is everything! Some simple signals that let parents know that their little ones are happy include:
- Babbling and Cooing: Happy babies make a lot of noise! This can range from adorable coos to surprising squeals.
- Wide and Attentive Eyes: Even if they can't fully make out your face, babies recognize your facial shape. If they're keeping their focus on you, it's likely they're engaged and happy.
- Reaching Out: Whether your baby is reaching in your direction or towards high contrast objects, this also signals happiness and interest. However, these need to be smooth movements. Jerks imply that something is wrong.
- Kicking: Unlike a toddler, baby kicks show excitement!
- Quick Breathing: Before they can giggle, many happy babies will breathe a bit faster. This is one way they express their excitement! However, if this quick breathing rate persists after the fun is done, then reach out to their pediatrician.
- Smiles and Laughs: As your little one grows, these will become the typical ways that they show joy.
In contrast, signs that your baby is unhappy include clenched fists, an arched back, tugging at the ears, and, of course, crying.
How to Make Your Baby Happy
Meeting their basic needs and responding to your baby's cries is important, but beyond that, if you want a happy baby, then you simply need to spend time with them! Early bonding with your child has so many incredible benefits. Research shows that "without a good initial bond, children are less likely to grow up to become happy, independent and resilient adults."
But what can you actually do with your little one in those first few weeks and months? We break down some of the best ways to bond with your baby and bring joy to their life.
Studies show that affectionate touch is essential for strengthening the mother-infant bond, lowering an infant's stress, and improving their sensory processing abilities. Some of the best touch-related bonding activities include cuddling, hugs, kisses, blowing raspberries, infant massage, and kangaroo holds.
If you're unfamiliar with this last technique, it prioritizes skin-to-skin contact, which is proven to regulate an infant's breathing, heart rate, and temperature, lower their stress levels, and even promote feeding! It can also facilitate a strong bond between the infant and their caregiver.
Tummy time is crucial to your baby's development, but it can also serve as a fantastically fun bonding experience. To get the most out of this floor play, invest in an activity gym, an array of simple toys for your baby to grasp onto, and high color contrast books like TummyTime Happy Baby. These can provide an interactive experience for both you and your child. Best of all, this activity can start the day you go home from the hospital.
Tummy time will also wear your baby out, which will facilitate a better night's sleep, and therefore, a much more content baby!
Babies learn through play. When you engage their senses, you help them explore the world and discover different emotions. By being an active participant in these learning moments, you can raise a happy baby and build a long-lasting bond. Types of sensory play for babies under six months old include:
- Playing in the mirror
- Introducing different noises with rattles
- Playing with toys that feature different textures
- Singing to your baby
- Playing peek-a-boo
While these may seem like silly little activities, they can have a calming effect on a child and they can bring genuine moments of joy. This will improve your baby's happiness and resilience for the future.
As your baby gets older, you can also introduce water tables, sensory bins, and fidget toys to fine tune their motor skills and continue with this beneficial type of play.
Dance and Move
Music and movement are spectacular tools for bringing joy to your baby's life. The right moves can provide both comfort and excitement, and the music adds a second sensory aspect to the experience. Dancing is a great way to bond with your baby, build trust, and invoke happiness, so show off your best moves!
Sunshine therapy and spending time in blue and green spaces will bring happiness to individuals of all ages. Research shows that nature-based activities boost mood, improve sleep, and trigger the release of serotonin, otherwise known as the 'happiness hormone'. The great outdoors can also be a great environment to meet other parents and begin to socialize your baby. Just make sure to stay sun safe while enjoying this activity.
Health experts do not recommend direct sunlight for babies under six months of age. Parents should also not use sunscreen prior to this milestone.
Just because direct sunlight isn't allowed for babies less than six months, that doesn't mean that you and your baby can't enjoy the benefits of these bright, beautiful spaces. Simply find a place in the shade in the early morning or early evening when temperatures are comfortable to take in the vibrant views, the relaxing breeze, and the different textures of the earth.
While it will take a few months for your baby to get on a schedule and up to six months before they start sleeping through the night, part of your job as a new parent is to read your baby's cues and advocate for their needs. What exactly does this mean? If they're showing signs of fussiness or tiredness, stop the activity you're doing and put them to bed.
Happy Babies Crave Your Attention
Want to know the real secret to having happy babies? Love your little one and give them the undivided attention they crave! Put your phone away, turn off the television, and engage with your child. Help them feel cared for and valued. Even if they don't know what these words mean, the actions will imprint on them for the long haul and play a big role in their present and future happiness.