How Your Baby Learns to Love

By the end of her first year, your baby can feel and express a wide range of emotions.

By Craig Ramey, PhD




Healthy emotions enable people to express and constructively manage the full range of human feelings, to postpone gratification, to find constructive outlets for negative emotions, and to understand and appreciate how others feel. With healthy emotions, people also learn about the many ways to experience joy, amusement, and satisfaction at the good things in their lives.

Emotional development begins right from birth as infants learn to trust and enjoy their parents and others who care for them. They also learn the basics of regulating their emotions as they remain attentive to things that interest them, as they discover ways to occupy themselves, and as they explore what works best to elicit their parents' loving responses. As toddlers acquire a sense of self and new language skills, they begin to relate feelings to their unique self, and to label their feelings. They increasingly comprehend how their emotions are connected with their actions, as well as the actions of others.

From the first few days of life, your baby attends closely to your face, already able to read and respond to positive and negative expressions as well as subtle differences in your voice. This keen connectedness helps form the earliest kind of love. He is also acquiring an early form of empathy when he reads and responds to the cues of others, showing clearly that he cares about others and their feelings.

In the first year, infants come to feel and express a sophisticated range of emotions. These coincide with changes inside themselves (internal cues and states) that help them know what to approach and what to avoid, which people and events make them feel good and which do not, how to show their delight and make others happy, as well as how to get help to relieve distress that is beyond their young ability to fix.

Social Skills
Social & Emotional Skills
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Child Development and Behavior
Social and Emotional Development