Your Relationship with your Baby

Nurturing relationships between a baby and their parents or primary caregivers are essential for healthy development.

The relationship you develop with your baby and how you care for them will shape the way their brain develops as well as the way their bodies respond to stress and distress.

As well as protecting them from harm, you can support you baby to feel safe and loved by spending time with them, giving them your attention and sensitively responding to their needs. This will help to build a close relationship with them and will give your baby the best chance of growing up to be happy and healthy by:

  • Giving them the skills to understand and manage their emotions and behaviour
  • Building their confidence in themselves
  • Helping them to develop trusting relationships with others
  • Supporting them to grow up feeling safe, secure and ready to play, explore and learn

Little things make a big difference. Everyday moments create connections

Each time you feed them, change them, settle them to sleep, talk to them, sing to them, look into their eyes, respond to sadness with warmth, love and reassurance you are meeting their needs.

There are lots of things you can do to build your relationship with your baby.

Here are some things you can try:

  • Respond to your baby when they cry. Try to figure out what they might be feeling and what they need from you and give it to them. Let them know you can tell something’s wrong and are there to help. Skin to skin, eye contact, gentle speech, touch and movement can help to calm a baby that is distressed.
  • Talk, read and sing to them. Respond to any noises they make. Try naming what they are doing or looking at, or saying what you think they may be thinking or feeling. 
  • Play with them. Position your baby so that you can see each other's faces. Try saying hello and smiling, sticking your tongue out or making an 'o' shape with your mouth, or maybe blowing a raspberry. From about 2-3 months, babies might enjoy looking at and exploring something together like a book or toy or a mirror.

Choose the right time and go at their pace

Babies are more likely to interact and play when they are feeling settled and are not hungry or tired. You can learn to spot when they are ready - they will be alert, bright eyed and their body will be still. Other signs include:

  • Looking at you
  • Reaching out towards you
  • Smiling, babbling and talking

Take your time and be prepared to allow time for them to rest a moment and look away from whatever you are doing.

How do I understand my baby?

Allow yourself time to watch your baby and wonder about how they are feeling. This helps you to understand their ways of letting you know when they are ready to feed, cuddle, play or sleep.

What would your baby say “I don’t use words yet, but I try to use my expressions and the noises I make to tell you what I need”

Your baby will use their face, voice and body to let you know when they want to interact with you. Looking at you, reaching towards you, smiling at you and babbling at you are all signs that they want to talk and play.

What would your baby say “I love to be social, and I will let you know when I am ready to talk and play! Make sure I’m comfortable can see your face and am not tired or hungry.

Crying is one of the main ways your baby can let you know they need something. It can take time to understand your baby’s needs. When your baby is crying, try to work out what they may be feeling and what they need and respond to this. Crying is your baby’s way of communicating with you. It can be helpful to think about your baby’s cry as them trying to talk to you.

What would your baby say “Because I can’t use words yet, I cry to tell you that I need something.  Because I can’t do things for myself yet, I need you to feed me when I’m hungry, help me to settle to sleep when I’m tired and put a blanket on me when I’m cold. I also need your help to calm down when I’m upset as I can’t yet do it on my own.

Babies cry because they are trying to let you know they need something. Don’t worry about spoiling your baby by responding to them too quickly – responding quickly to your baby’s needs helps them to build trust that you will be there for them when they need you. Over time, this confidence that you will be there to meet their needs will mean that they cry less.  

It can be difficult and tiring when trying to sooth a crying baby. Never shake or shout at a baby.

If you feel stressed and angry, put your baby in a safe place and walk away. After a few minutes, when you are feeling calm, go back and check on your baby.

If you are worried that your baby is crying because they are unwell, contact your doctor or get help from NHS 111 by calling 111.

For support with crying, you may find it helpful to talk to someone you trust like a family member or friend. You could also seek support from your health visitor or GP.

You can also find additional support at:

Every baby is different, and they will all have different things which help to make them feel calm and comforted. Some ideas to try are holding your baby close and gently rocking them, talking or singing softly to them or stroking their back or head.

What would your baby say “I am unique, which means I will have my own things which will help me to feel happy. By trying different ways to soothe me, you can find out my likes and dislikes, and better understand what can make me feel calm and safe."

Becoming a parent is exciting but it can also be exhausting and overwhelming. Take time to do something you enjoy. Connect with other people. Cut yourself some slack – you don’t have to be perfect! If you find you are struggling, ask for help from friends or family or speak with your midwife, health visitor, GP or local family hub.

Most parents want the best for their children but there are a number of things that can make it harder for them to provide their baby with the nurturing care they need. The demands of sleepless nights, frequent feeds and a crying baby can be hard to cope with.

Sometimes other things can affect how you feel and act around your baby, such as a traumatic pregnancy or birth, mental health problems (such as depression or anxiety), loss and bereavement, or events from the past or present.

It’s not unusual for parents and carers to struggle, caring for a baby is hard work!

Looking after yourself and seeking support when needed will help you to be the best parent you can be for your child.

If you are concerned about your relationship with you baby or want to find out more about how you can support their emotional well-being visit the Parent and Infant Mental Health page for services that can support. 

Further help and support

Perinatal support - Pregnancy and early parenting - Sheffield Suicide Support and Prevention - This page is dedicated to perinatal support including information about children and family support, parent and carer mental health support and general information about support, activities and resources.

Sheffield Mental Health Guide - This page takes you to services that can help throughout pregnancy and early parenting. 

Parent and infant relationship service (PAIRS) - This pages provides more information on the PAIRS service in Sheffield and how you can access support. 

Last updated: