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10 Signs Your Baby Likes You

You know you’ve had your moments of wondering -- are all these sleepless nights, made-up lullabies and silly one-sided conversations really appreciated? Unlike your boss, baby doesn’t fill out performance evaluations, and he’s certainly not ready to tell you those three little words just yet. But if you read between the lines, you’ll see some pretty strong signs that your baby likes you (actually, loves you) and thinks you’re doing just fine, mama.

Photo: Union Photography

Sign #1: Eye contact

You know those moments when baby gazes deep into your eyes (kind of like he’s trying to see your soul?). That’s a sign he’s attracted to you, and he’s trying to get to know you even better.

“Newborns don’t have very good eyesight,” says Pete Stavinoha, PhD, a child neuropsychologist at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. “But they will orient toward your face, and when you hold them, they can make out the form of your face and see your biggest features -- eyes and nose and mouth.”

Newborns (as well as older babies) will even try to copy your facial expressions. If you’ve captured your baby’s gaze, try sticking out your tongue. There’s a good chance she will too, and all that monkey-see, monkey-do helps baby feel close to you.

Sign #2: Turning toward you

Did you know that babies can hear sounds as early as 20 weeks into pregnancy? And unborn babies’ heart rates slow when they hear their mothers talking? Yup, even before birth, your voice is a comfortable, soothing sound for your child, and he’d rather hear you than anyone else on the planet.

That’s why even very young babies will turn toward a familiar sound (as opposed to a strange one). In other words, if you and your mother are talking while she holds your baby, baby will probably turn his head toward you when you speak, even though it’s grandma who’s holding him. Already, baby knows you’re the one who’s always there for him, and his head turning shows it.

Sign #3: Opening his mouth

Your baby thinks you smell amazing (yes, really -- even if you didn’t have time to shower today). Numerous research studies have shown that babies can identify their mothers by smell alone. In one study, newborns were presented breast pads that had been saturated with human milk. The babies made more mouthing motions when they were sniffing the pads that contained their own mom's milk. And your smell -- unlike the smell of other nice but unfamiliar women -- is particularly comforting to your baby.

Sign #4: Melting in your arms

You have a unique ability to comfort your baby. And while you might not always be able to tell that your baby prefers to hear, smell and see you, you can certainly feel the way your baby relaxes in your arms when you hold her. Take that as the ultimate compliment!

On the other hand, some babies aren’t as easily soothed as others -- chalk it up to personality! If baby doesn’t immediately calm down in your arms, his fussiness doesn’t mean he hates you -- it just means that you haven’t figured out what he needs or wants yet. Give yourself time! Learning what calms baby is a process of trial and error. You’ll get it right eventually, and believe it or not, your baby loves the fact that you’re trying.

Sign #5: Smiles, of course!

No, it’s not just gas! Somewhere between six weeks and three months, baby will look at you and flash a full-on smile that’s guaranteed to make even the most cynical mama’s heart swell. Doctors call that kind of smile a “social smile” and describe it as one that’s “either a reaction, or trying to elicit a reaction,” Stavinoha says. In other words, baby is interacting with you! Keep the fun going by smiling back. When you smile at your baby, and she smiles back, you’re cementing your relationship, smile by smile.

Sign #6: Cooing and babbling

Shortly after baby’s first social smile -- usually sometime around two months -- he’ll start trying to chat with you. It won’t be the kind of chat you enjoy with your girlfriends, but it’ll make you just as happy. Those coos are often just breathy vowel sounds that don’t sound much like words at all -- but if you make the same noises back at him, you two just might start a “conversation.”

As baby interacts verbally with you and develops his speaking skills by listening to you and copying your words, he’s showing just how much he loves you.

Sign #7: “Lighting up” when you enter the room

By six months or so, babies are perfectly capable of telling the difference between nice people and the best, most wonderful people on the planet (you and your partner). Your baby may be completely content in your best friend’s arms -- but will wiggle happily when she hears you enter the room. “Basically, what’s happening is that babies discriminate among very familiar attached figures in their life, versus others who might be perfectly nice and fine, but not attachment figures,” Stavinoha says. In other words, that’s more proof your baby really does love you. She might like other people, but no one is as special to her as mommy and daddy -- and you can see it in her eyes.

Sign #8: Laughing

“There’s nothing greater than a baby’s belly laugh,” Stavinoha says, and most parents would agree. The sound of your baby’s giggles -- in response to something you just did -- is probably one of your favorite sounds. Of course, other people can make your baby laugh. But no one knows him like you do. You know exactly how he likes to be tickled on the bottom of his feet, or that blowing in his face causes him to erupt in laughter. After a while, baby will figure out that you know what he likes, and he may even begin to laugh in anticipation of your touch or antics. That’s a true connection!

Sign #9: Separation anxiety

This one isn’t so fun. Sometime between nine months and a year, most babies begin to cry when they’re dropped off at day care or left with a babysitter (even if the babysitter is grandma!). And while it’s tough to hear your baby cry, know that those tears are a definite sign he loves you. Baby already knows that you care for him, and for a small period, he may worry you might never come back. (Try not to have a mom-guilt freak-out about it -- in time, he’ll learn that you always return.) And right now, those cries signify your importance in his life. You’re so special to him that he can’t even imagine life without you. (And rest assured that he’ll settle down shortly after you leave.)

Sign #10: Checking in

Older babies are built to explore. Once baby begins to crawl, she’ll probably seem to be everywhere at once! But have you noticed how frequently she returns to your side? Or that she looks to you for reassurance when she’s in an unfamiliar situation? What might look like insecurity is actually a sign of a very healthy attachment, Stavinoha explains. “That checking-in behavior is a healthy, normal thing to do,” he says. “The child is starting to venture out and establish her independence a little bit, but mom and dad still represent safety and security.”

Think of yourself as home base. Your child is now ready to explore the world, but needs to know that you’re nearby in case she needs some hugs and kisses. If that’s not love, what is?

Plus, more from The Bump:

25 Reasons Babies Rock

How to Raise a Happy Baby

Smart Ways to Play With Baby

-- Jennifer L.W. Fink

See More: Baby Basics , Newborn Basics , Mommy Life