A Magical Moment: Making Eye Contact with your Baby while Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding means a lot more than just giving your child the nutrition they need to grow up healthy. It also builds a bond with your child. During this nurturing, affectionate act, you exchange smells, touch, emotions and eye contact with your baby, giving them another kind of nourishment altogether.
We might be talking about breastfeeding, here, but that doesn’t mean that bottle feeding should be excluded. That contact with your baby in your arms is still there. You can still murmur to them in a low voice, and your baby’s eyes will seek out your face.
Believe it or not, there are few moments as important for a child’s development as when they are in the arms of their mother, or of course their father.
In fact, there are multiple studies that show this. Children begin the process of learning to communicate thanks to that interaction with their mothers while nursing. Their brain starts to take in sounds, gestures, tones of voice and individual words, which little by little merge together to form the basis of language.
In this process, sensations of pleasure and wellbeing are fundamental. While they nurse, babies are happy and relaxed, making them more receptive to learning and connecting with their environment. This physical and emotional sensation aids the growth of neuronal structures, until one day, the moment comes when your baby will be able to look you in the eye.
We will now talk a little more about this amazing process.
The first eye contact with your baby in your arms
As they say, there is little in life as beautiful as a mother nursing her baby. However, there are many things about breastfeeding that we aren’t necessarily aware of during this wonderful stage.
A sophisticated biological mechanism
We know that pregnancy is a chaotic whirlwind of hormones, activating vital processes that build our bond with our baby, even after they are born. Oxytocin, for example, is stimulated when the baby latches onto the breast. This hormone acts in our brain to promote the flow or milk and also strengthen that deep emotional bond.
Something you might not know, however, is that for the first few months of their life, your baby has a very limited field of vision. They can only distinguish objects around 50 centimeters away, or less.
This is due to a very simple fact. The only thing that the baby needs to focus on during this time is their mother’s breast, or their bottle.
During the first few weeks of their life, therefore, your child is guided by just one of their senses: smell. So don’t worry if you can’t make eye contact with your baby at first. It just isn’t time yet.
The magical moment of eye contact at around four months
Every child matures at their own pace. However, it is normally at around four months of age that your baby’s eyes gain the ability to focus and perceive depth. These are two essential processes that will allow your baby to focus their attention on what is most important to them: you.
Those long moments you share with your baby during breast feeding are unforgettable. In those instants of subtle intimacy, your words and touch will gradually broaden your baby’s horizons until their eyes can find you. Around this age, your child will also begin to play with your hair and clothes.
Every child has their own way of nursing. Some are calm, while others are anxious, but those same behaviors will change and mature with every week that passes. Your child is growing up before your eyes, and that is good.
Your baby is looking for something more than just eye contact
This is important. When your baby starts to return your gaze, talk to them. Non-verbal language is important, but those few seconds when our eyes meet are the perfect time to give them more stimulation.
- When you speak, your baby might answer you with a smile. Later on it could be a whistle, a giggle, and then a gesture of curiosity or provocation to get you to keep on interacting.
- Don’t forget that a baby’s eyes are like doors that we need to know how to open. Behind them lies a whole world that you can stimulate every day through your magical bond with your child.
Whatever everyone might say, food and care are not the only things that matter during a baby’s first few months. During this time, your baby is waking up to life. With every gesture, every touch, every word, you light up their mind, and with your eyes, you guide them as they make their way into the world.