Babies have strong preferences about many different issues, as any parent who has heard one cry can confirm. Not every child is the same, and opinions may vary, but there do tend to be universal truths when it comes to what babies love and what they dislike. Research even offers reasons why babies prefer certain situations, like those that involve voices and physical contact, as opposed to others.
Decoding newborn behavior is difficult, so knowing how babies work and why they do or don't like certain approaches helps demystify the process a bit. Parenting books and other parents may offer advice that actually makes caring for a baby harder, and it's important to know why babies respond the way they do.
Every baby is different, and while most kids strongly dislike sitting in a back-facing car seat, there are those who love it. This list isn’t descriptive of every child, but it is a good start when trying to figure out how to calm a baby or why he or she might be crying or angry in the first place. Babies are not miniature versions of adults, so it’s important to take their specific needs and desires into account when caring for them. It makes parenting much easier.
20 Love: Mom Close
A baby loves everything about his mom: her scent, her voice, and her face. He wants to be as close to her as possible for as often as possible. This is understandable since babies can't see very far after they are born. Mom being a few feet is away feels like her not being around at all, and after nine months encapsulated in the womb, that's daunting for a baby.
Baby slings and carriers help keep the baby close when mom still needs to move freely, and it's fine to just sit and hold the baby. This doesn't spoil babies because affection and attention can't spoil them. It helps them thrive.
19 Dislike: Crying It Out
Recent years have brought us books on letting babies cry it out to teach them to sleep without aid. Unfortunately, this has led to cases of FTT, and babies don't want to be left alone in the dark to figure sleep out. The first three months out of the womb are often called the fourth trimester, and that alone should express how important it is for a baby to be near others and receive help when needed.
Sleep training is not for newborns, and the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is that babies room in with parents for at least the first six months. This ensures a child's needs can be met quickly, and it makes letting them cry it out impossible.
18 Love: Black and White Objects
Go for black and white mobiles, black and white books, and black and white toys in those early days because those are what babies can see best. In fact, black, white, and gray will stand out to their little eyes. Bold patterns are good, and putting them close enough for a baby's limited vision in those early days is also wise.
A baby's vision will develop, but there is a lot of blurriness and lack of color early on. Offering black and white things for them to play with helps them become engaged with these items and really explore because they can see them better.
17 Dislike: Being Hungry
Babies eat so much for being so small. It's because they have tiny stomachs that process food quickly, and then they need more. Babies do not like being hungry, and many let parents know this by screaming their heads off until they are fed.
It's important to feed babies on demand instead of keeping them on a rigid eating schedule. When they are teething or going through growth spurts, they may want to eat more often. That's okay, and if mom and dad aren't upping feeds to accommodate a baby's hunger, the baby is going to be unhappy. This will likely result in unhappiness for everyone.
16 Love: Mirrors
What baby wouldn't want to see her precious face staring back in the mirror? Babies love mirrors, and they will peek at pretty much any they are near to check out the cutie looking back at them.
Looking at mirrors helps babies focus and interact, even if they are simply interacting with their reflections. It starts teaching them the idea of object permanence, and mirrors can be used during tummy time to encourage babies to look up and see their faces. This will help build their core and neck muscles, and that helps when crawling and walking time come around.
15 Dislike: Yelling
It's normal to become frustrated with a baby's cries day after day. No matter how much mom and dad love the baby, sleep deprivation mixed with constant infant needs can drive anyone to feel irritable. However, don't yell at the baby, and try not to even yell at other people in front of the baby. It's startling for little ones, and even if they don't know what is being said, they don't like the sound of yelling voices.
A baby wants soothing contact and voices and can be scared when a trusted adult raises his voice. The studies on yelling often say it's as bad as spanking, so find a way to constructively work through stress without screaming.
14 Love: Interaction
Babies are not meant to be solitary creatures going it alone. The way they are made prohibits this since they are dependent on other people to meet their needs. They also enjoy social interactions, even if the interactions aren't as advanced as adults talking to adults.
Babies learn words and so much more from interaction with parents and others. In fact, children who are left alone and not interacted with often enough may have negative side effects. Behavioral issues and emotional issues can occur when children aren't engaged enough with other people. Research studies back up the importance of interacting with children, even when they are babies.
13 Dislike: Strangers
The person who wants to hold the baby may be a family member or friend who mom and dad love, but that means nothing to a baby in the early days. If this person appears to be a stranger to the baby, expect some major push back when trying to hand the baby off to someone else.
There are babies who don't mind being handed off to strangers, but most want to see and smell mom or dad at all times. It takes babies a while to get used to other people, and even well-meaning people can make a baby cry if they attempt to pry him from the loving arms of his parents.
12 Love: Smiles
Since babies spend a lot of time checking out faces, it's nice if the faces they are looking at are smiling ones. Kids can understand early what stress looks like, and studies show that even a neutral expression on parents' faces may read as negative to children.
Smiling can help a child know that mom or dad is happy, and it's a great way to teach the little one to start smiling back. Parents don't have to wear fake smiles all the time, but it is wise to be aware that even if a child can't hear mom's words, he is working to read her face.
11 Dislike: Being Startled
Babies startle pretty easily at times, and they don't love it. Loud sounds can cause a peaceful baby to suddenly startle, as can being put down on the back after being held. While babies should absolutely sleep on their backs, be prepared for them to startle awake when their backs hit the crib mattresses. They tend to flail their arms and wake up agitated.
The startle reflex is normal and a necessary sign of proper development, but babies tend to be annoyed when they are startled, and it's never a good idea to try to scare a baby to see a startled reaction.
10 Love: Being Held
Babies want to be close to others. Some parents complain about their babies not wanting to be put down, but that is normal. Instead of seeing a baby who cries when not being held as an inconvenience, consider it the norm.
A baby can't see very far away, can't smell mom from a distance, and can't study her face if he is not being held close to her. Holding offers warmth and comfort, and kangaroo care is common for premature babies and newborns. Skin-to-skin contact is one of the most magical experiences for a baby and her parents and should be employed often to calm everyone.
9 Dislike: Being Ignored
There are absolutely times when mom or dad will be so tired or frustrated that the best thing to do is take a breath before responding to the baby, as long as they baby is not in danger. However, ignoring an infant often is not a wise parenting approach and can lead to a myriad of problems.
While containers such as swings, bouncers, and baby seats, have made it easier for parents to put their babies down and move freely, they've also made it easier to isolate a child from human interaction for long periods of time. That's not what these inventions were created for, and babies should not be dropped off in a container and left to their own devices, nor should they be ignored when distressed.
8 Love: Traveling With Adults
One reason baby carriers and slings work for so many babies is because of the way they put babies higher up. This gives a little one the chance to travel around and see things that a parent sees instead of having the limited view from the stroller without any human touch.
Even carrying baby around the house and pointing out the door or the sink is fascinating for his growing mind. Soon enough the baby will be crawling or walking on his own, but until then, walking a baby around the house can calm him down and give him a chance to explore.
7 Dislike: The Car Seat
Not every child dislikes riding in a car seat, but many do and they aren't afraid to express their dissatisfaction. Rear facing car seats are the safest options for infants, but not being able to see mom is upsetting for little ones. They often don't understand that not being able to see her doesn't mean she's not there, so they scream the entire ride.
Babies can also become too warm in car seats because the padding in the seat against their clothes creates quite a bit of heat. It's important to always use a proper car seat when traveling with a baby, but know he or she may not like it.
6 Love: Voices
Babies love voices. The key is that these voices are calm and loving and that they come from an actual human being as opposed to a faceless screen. Even without knowing what is being said, a baby will watch the person holding her talk and start picking up language patterns just from these observations.
Screen time is not the same and can actually delay speech development. It also lacks the human interaction component that is so important, so simply pick up the baby and chat. It's an easy, free way to soothe a child and to connect while also teaching them words.
5 Dislike: Physical Discipline
Research study after research study shows that spanking does not work as a discipline method and that corporal punishment can cause harm to children, both physically and emotionally. It's common sense not to hit a baby, yet some people do give swats on the legs or hands when they believe an infant is misbehaving. It's a mistake, and babies strongly don't like it.
Babies aren't trying to manipulate their parents, and when they do something that is difficult to handle it's usually because they don't know any better or are trying to have a need met. Hitting them will not help, and it will teach them to be afraid.
4 Love: A Gentle Touch
While babies are probably tougher than they look, they need to be handled gently and they prefer a soft touch. The soft spot, the umbilical stump, and the circumcision site all need tender care in the early days, so it's important not to be too rough.
Babies also need to know the touch they receive from their parents is going to be soft and reassuring. Some people even practice baby massage to help their infants sleep or pass gas, and this approach can work for babies who respond well to a gentle hand. Don't hit, pull, or shake babies because they don't like it and can be harmed that way.
3 Dislike: Soiled Diapers
It shouldn't come as a surprise that babies really don't enjoy sitting around in messy diapers all day. Not only is it gross but it can also lead to diaper rush or infections, making the discomfort turn to pain.
One of the first places to check when a child is upset is the diaper. Is it wet or soiled? Is it too tight or too loose? Is it rubbing on the baby's umbilical stump? Any of these can cause a problem, but a soiled diaper is a sure reason for a baby to cry. It's a way to signal that something is wrong when words aren't yet available.
2 Love: Predictability
Humans are alike, whether children or adults, in that we all tend to like routines and predictability. Babies tend to thrive when they know what is next because they don't have any real control over their worlds. At least recognizing a routine and pattern to their day helps them feel stable.
Predictability does not have to mean a rigid schedule that lives by the clock. It's simply creating patterns and cues that babies recognize so they have some idea of what comes next. Bed time routines, bath time routines, and feeding routines help a child understand what is expected during these times, and this predictability can make life easier for everyone overall.
1 Dislike: Being Alone
It's fine for mom and dad to take a break and have a date, but parenting is a full-time job when around the baby. Babies don't like to be left alone, and they shouldn't be for long periods of time.
Social interactions and play time are beneficial for a child's development, and being with other people helps a baby feel safe. A child who knows mom's voice and can smell her scent will want to know that she is around, and this child won't want to be put in a crib for hours a day to simply stare or cry alone. It's important to include babies in everyday life so they can socially interact and feel the calm that comes when they know their caregivers are around.
Sources: Babycenter.com, ScientificAmerican.com, Melissaanddoug.com