You love their coos, their gummy smile, the way their eyes twinkle when they gaze at you, their chubby little rolls, and their excessive drooling that forms a mini puddle on your shirt when you hold them. You can’t help but love everything about your newborn, and with each day that passes, you feel more and more attached.
This intense yet special love, care, and protectiveness are known as bonding1. It’s not only instinctual but also completely normal and healthy — don’t worry if you want to snuggle your baby all the time. We totally get it! For moms and dads, bonding can mean cuddles, kisses, skin-to-skin contact, feeding and caring for an infant, rocking them to sleep, and singing them lullabies to soothe them.
While bonding may not always be an instantaneous experience for new parents — about 20% may not feel a real emotional attachment to their newborn post-delivery — most newborns are immediately ready2,3. It provides them a sense of security and positive self-esteem and lets them know they can trust and rely on you.
15 Ways Your Baby Shows How Much They Love You
Since your little one can’t tell you that they love you yet (we promise, you’ll absolutely melt when that day comes!), they’ll show signs of bonding and their love for you in other ways. Check out these 15 heartfelt ways that your baby shows you just how much they love you.
1. They Follow Your Voice
Pregnancy is a miraculous experience. So much so that your baby can hear your heartbeat while in the womb and can start to identify the sound of your voice4. Even within a few days after birth, your little one will still be able to recognize when you’re speaking and will actually be more attentive to your voice over a stranger5.
2. They Recognize You and Gaze at You
While your voice is certainly an identifier, your baby will also learn to recognize your face once their vision better develops around the two to four-month marker. A Stanford University study even proved this belief to be true. Psychology researchers discovered that babies, as early as four months old, can process faces as an adult would long before they can recognize any other object6. So, the next time you find your cutie pie looking at you more often or staring into your face more intently, flash them a big smile and stare back into their eyes. Your baby is showing you how much they love you. This will develop an emotional connection between both of you and let your darling know they can trust you7.
3. They Smile at You
Nothing is sweeter than an infant’s smile, especially when you know it’s because they caught a glimpse of you and not because they’ve passed some gas. When infants begin to social smile (a grin that occurs in response to someone else’s smile), this is a positive sign that their social communication skills are developing8. As a result, they’ve learned that flashing their adorable gum-filled mouths helps them engage with you and get your attention.
4. They (Attempt to) Give You Kisses
If you kiss your bundle of joy when they wake and sleep, to comfort them when they’re upset, or just because you can’t handle the cuteness, they’ll begin to associate these gentle pecks as a sign of affection. Then, once they reach the stage where they’re mimicking your expressions and actions (typically starting around eight months23), they’ll return all those smooches to you. Of course, this example of your baby showing you how much they love you doesn’t come without their mouth wide open, full of slobber!
5. They Imitate You
Imitation is another key indicator that your little baby is bonding with you and showing you how much they love you3. When they see you make specific gestures or facial expressions, they’ll want to do the same. Some of these behaviors include clapping their hands, waving goodbye, or shaking their head back and forth.
6. They Run to You No Matter What
Whether they’ve fallen because they’re still adjusting to this whole walking thing, or they want to share a soggy bite of their snack, your little one will seek out mom or dad for comfort, safety, and when they want a response from you.
7. They Ask You for a Pick-Me-Up
There’s no denying that babies love to be held. It’s their safety net that immediately relaxes them and fills them with the same warmth and comfort they had when in the womb9. By the time they’re ten months old (if it happens closer to their first birthday, that’s normal, too), expect to receive requests to be picked up10,11. They’ll hold up their arms when they see you to communicate that they want to be lifted and carried.
8. They Coo and Babble at You
A three-month-old’s coo is like listening to a cat’s purr — it makes us feel happy, special, and loved and drives us to cuddle them even more12. Although cooing indicates that your baby is discovering their voice, it’s a good sign that they’re happy and love hearing you speak to them13. So be sure to exaggerate the pitch in your voice and give them the sweet baby talk babies adore so much.
9. Your Scent Soothes Them
Some mommas swear by comforting their sweetheart simply with their scent, and science agrees with their theory. Israel’s Reichman University’s Center for Developmental Social Neuroscience found that a mom’s worn T-shirt, laced with her scent (after wearing two nights), helped infants feel comfortable interacting and bonding with another adult when she wasn’t nearby14.
10. They Laugh With You
An infant’s giggles are music to a parent’s ears. These laughs will make your heart lurch even more when it happens in response to something you did, like tickling them or blowing raspberries on their belly.
According to findings from a University of London-led survey, a baby’s chuckle is indeed a social response and happens as a result of an adult doing something funny with them15. For instance, if you play peek-a-boo with your little one, they’ll laugh in response to the sweet, social connection you two share, and not because they find an object disappearing and reappearing hilarious.
11. They Snuggle You
Babies are known to be cuddle monsters, thanks to oxytocin. This so-called cuddle or love hormone is released during and after childbirth, when a newborn is breastfed, and throughout a snuggle session, playing a key role in parent-child bonding16,17. When your baby asks to be held, you’re not only building a safety net for them but also lowering their stress levels and fears18,19.
12. They Light Up When You Enter a Room
Your presence is a huge deal to your baby. Yes, you’re allowed to sit on your high horse for this one because it’s true. They want to be carried by you and simply just be with you. So, the moment you or your spouse walk into the room, they’ll squirm out of whoever’s arms they’re in and reach for you both. For them, grandma and auntie are awesome people, but nothing compares to mom and dad.
13. They Experience the Unfortunate Separation Anxiety
We hate to be the one to tell you, but yes, separation anxiety is a form of your baby’s love. This stage, which can begin anytime between the ages of six months to three years, is a sign that your baby is aware of their dependency on those who love and care for them (a.k.a. mom and dad)20. Next time you drop off your little one at daycare or with a babysitter, just remember their shrieking cries are rooted in love for you.
14. They Copy Your Every Move
What your tot sees, your tot does, especially when it’s mama or dada doing it. Around age two, youngsters navigate the world and learn new information through social learning, like copying what the adults do in their life21. While it may be hard to believe, your kiddo is already looking up to you and wants to learn from the people they love and trust the most.
15. They Look to You for Reassurance
Have you ever spotted your baby looking at you for confirmation that a new setting or the new person holding them is okay? This indicates that they have a secure attachment to you that makes them feel safe and calm and offers them a type of home base to return to when they’re done exploring22. As they start to crawl around your home, don’t be surprised when they end up back at your side.
Although your baby can’t spill the beans and show how much they love you, these nonverbal cues that show you how much they adore you are sure to make you feel all gooey inside. No matter how small or big their gestures are, whether a simple smile and coo or running to you when they’re in need, you’ll always know that you’re their number one fan.