The first steps in bonding

The significance of responsive interactions

Interpersonal relationships are built through communications. If you observe closely and interact responsively with your baby, you will find that she could communicate with others before she could express her needs in words, and will develop an understanding of her cues gradually. For instance, with time, you will know whether she wants to be fed or have her diaper changed when your baby cries. Your baby will also be satisfied by appropriate and prompt responses to her needs from the caregivers. Through meeting your baby’s physical needs, you are also fostering her sense of security and building a long-term and intimate parent-child relationship.

A close parent-child relationship can help your baby feels secure and being cared for, giving her the confidence to explore the world. The experiences of being loved and courageous explorations will help your child grow up into an independent and confident person. Research also shows that responsive interactions with caregivers could facilitate brain development. By having frequent interactions and play with your baby and attuned to her needs, you are laying a solid foundation for her healthy development. Even though your baby may not understand your words yet, don’t overlook the significance of these interactions and try to enjoy the process with your baby!

Baby’s Crying

Decoding your baby’s crying

Father is looking frustrated as the baby would not stop crying

The main means for newborns to express themselves is through crying. Therefore, you need to understand why your baby cries and what her crying means.

The causes of baby’s crying:

  • Indicating physical needs:
    For example, soiling or wetting her diaper, feeling hungry or tired, having discomfort, etc.
  • Falling ill:
    If your baby is ill, e.g. having a fever, not wanting to suck or suckle, having a distended stomach or frequent vomits, you have to take her to the doctor immediately.
  • Being irritated by external stimuli:
    Some babies may get irritated when they are exposed to too high or too low room temperature, loud noises or having too many visitors. There will be individual differences in baby’s response to different stimuli.
  • Feeling stressed:
    Babies can sense the emotional changes of their caregivers even before they are one month old. They may get anxious and keep on crying when their caregiver is under tension.
  • Feeling lonely:
    Babies need companies, too.
  • Colic:
    There are no definite reasons for colic. It happens typically in babies from newborn to 3 months old. The babies will frown or cry intensely in the evening without a cause. They may also pass gas, pull up their legs, or wiggle their body. Their crying is inconsolable despite consoling effort is made

Responding to baby’s crying

Try to figure out your baby’s needs according to the above possible underlying causes. Even if you cannot find out why your baby cries right now, you can

  • talk to and touch your baby tenderly
  • play soft music to her
  • swaddle her in a soft blanket

Usually, your baby will be calmed down when she hears your voice and sees you approaching with a tender look.

Can holding the baby too much spoil her?

Holding the baby

Young infants cry to signal their needs.If the suggested responses to your baby’s crying above do not help you to calm her down, do pick her up to soothe her. Your baby will feel your sensitivity to her needs as well as your love and care. This will enhance a secure relationship between the two of you and will have positive impact on your baby’s emotional development.

More ways to soothe your baby

How to soothe a crying baby – English

Narrator: What do you do when your baby is crying?

Scene: Daddy goes to the crib when baby is crying. He checks and changes the wet nappy, then rock baby gently in his arms.

Narrator: First of all, you need to find out why your baby is crying. A baby may cry to indicate his basic physical needs, for instance, he cries when he is hungry or when feeling uncomfortable with his wet diaper. At other times, your baby may need a sense of security from your cuddles and physical closeness. As baby’s crying has the basic function of signaling needs, don’t worry about spoiling him by comforting and holding him when he needs your soothing. Not until babies are 8 to 9 months old that they would have the ability to whine for your attention. So you won’t be spoiling your baby by holding him. You may check on your baby’s need step-by-step before you pick him up.

Scene: Daddy checks on baby’s neck and back to see if he’s too hot.

Narrator: Try one method at a time in soothing your baby. This enables you to find out what is the effective way to manage your baby’s crying.

Scene: Daddy picks up baby after checking various possibilities.

Narrator: Avoid being too worried and hurried. Doing many things at the same time would only over-stimulate your baby and make him feel even more tense and uncomfortable. If your baby still continues crying intensely after you have tried the above methods he might probably have what we call infant colic. If so, you may carry him upright against your chest and shoulder. Swing or jiggle lightly. Slow down your movements when your baby calms down. If you still haven’t figured out why your baby keeps crying, you can try to give him a pacifier for sucking comfort. If you are breastfeeding your baby, do not give him a pacifier as it will cause nipple confusion in him. Give a pacifier only after he is over one month old. Or you can place your baby on a rocking chair. These are only some suggestions in soothing a crying baby. You can share with your family, relatives and friends on how to console a baby. Whatever methods you try, you should always keep calm and put your baby’s safety at the first place. If you have worries and concerns about your baby’s inconsolable crying take your baby to the maternal and child health centre or consult your family doctor or paediatrician.


What is “Shaken Baby Syndrome” (Updated name as Abusive Head Trauma)?

Video by courtesy of the United Christian Hospital – Produced in 1999

This page is only available in Traditional Chinese


Abusive Head Trauma (previously known as Shaken Baby Syndrome) describes the serious injuries that can occur when infants or young children are violently shaken or suffer from blunt impact related to forceful hitting, slamming, pulling, etc. There is a gap between human brain tissue and the skull such that they are not tightly attached together. Babies are especially vulnerable because of the softness of the brain and lack of development of muscles in the neck. Violent shaking a baby as brief as a few seconds with rapid acceleration –deceleration forces, or subject them to blunt force would both cause damage to his fragile brain, resulting in serious injuries such as permanent brain damage, blindness, seizure or even death.

How to talk and play with your baby?

Baby changes from crying to smiling

Babies can be emotional, too. When they are tired, they tend to be agitated. As babies have very short attention span, your baby will lose her interest very soon by turning her head away and getting grumpy. Then you need to stop talking to her for a while and let your baby take a break.

Babies may sometimes get into a bad mood out of loneliness. Therefore, try to give your baby attention when she is calm. You can try more of The 3 responsive interactions below. In doing so, your baby will learn that she will get this positive attention from you when she is calm. She will be contented with your attention and thus reducing the chance of her crying.

The 3 responsive interactions

What simple parent-child activities that you can do?

Physical contact ( 0 to 1 Month ) – English

Narrator: Connecting with your baby can be made easy through simple daily activities. For example, you can touch or rock your baby gently. Or move his arms and legs gently such as doing baby exercises when talking to him.


Visual communication ( 0 to 1 Month ) – English

Narrator: Keep eye contact at the right level and at a distance of about 20 to 25 cm with your baby when communicating with him. Playing with your baby in lively facial expressions can attract his attention.


Vocal communication ( 0 to 1 Month ) – English

Narrator: Although your baby cannot talk to you, do talk and sing to him in a high-pitched voice.