Tuning into a baby’s mind

16177479_c90bff0623_oSpending time thinking about what’s going on in your baby’s mind might seem like a funny thing to do, but it’s actually really helpful for both you and your baby! Tuning into your baby’s thoughts and feelings is good for your baby’s development, your relationship with them and your own stress levels!

How can I ‘read’ my baby’s mind?

Female_babyEvery baby is different. They are all born with a unique personality. So getting to know a new baby is like getting to know a new friend. If you made a new friend, you’d probably want to find out lots of things about them, like what kind of music they like, where they go out, what food they like to eat, what jokes make them laugh, what their fashion sense is like, whether they are reliable or flaky. You’d find this out over time by having chats, texting, going out together.

It’s the same with your baby (except they can’t text you back yet!). It takes time to figure them out. But by spending time together, listening to them, watching them and thinking about them, you come to know them and understand them really well. Have a read of the examples and watch this video to find out more:

Thanks to the Getting to Know Your Baby project for letting us include this video. Copyright owned by NSPCC and Warwick Medical School: www.your-baby.org.uk

Susie and Ben

Boy with toy carSusie was a girl with a 7 month old baby boy named Ben. Ben’s granny kept saying that her son had loved to look at picture books at that age, and kept giving books to Ben to look at, saying ‘He’s just like his Dad’. Susie wanted to be polite so she would let his granny show the books to Ben. But Susie could see that Ben would just look for a second, and then put his head up in the air or look away, and would start to grunt a little bit if his grandmother kept showing them to him. Susie could tell that he was bored by the books, and was getting a bit cross! However, Susie had noticed before that when he saw any toys with wheels, Ben would stare and stare, and kick his legs, reaching out for them. Susie knew that Ben really liked the toy cars and wanted to play with them, but was bored by the books. In this example, Susie shows that she’s really good at tuning in to Ben’s mind. She uses this ability to figure out what he does and does not like.

Tanya and Katelyn

young mum holding babyTanya had a 1-month-old baby girl called Katelyn. One evening Katelyn kept crying, and wouldn’t go to sleep. Tanya couldn’t figure out why. She knew she wasn’t hungry and her nappy was clean. Tanya was starting to get stressed and annoyed. But then she took a deep breath, and decided to try to figure out what the matter was. She held Katelyn gently and made nice soothing sounds. She watched her calmly, wondering what her baby might be feeling. Maybe she had a pain, or something had given her a fright. Maybe she was just like Tanya, who always found it hard to fall sleep at night, just like her granny too! Tanya imagined what it would be like not to be able to say what’s on your mind, and she started to feel really protective of Katelyn. She thought ‘I’ll be here for you no matter what’. She played some soft music, dangled some of Katelyn’s toys, and walked with her gently for over an hour. Eventually Katelyn stopped crying and fell asleep. Tanya was exhausted, but she was proud of being there for her baby. From then on, Tanya would always make sure she had lots of lullabies ready to help Tanya to sleep. In this example Tanya tunes in to Katelyn’s mind to try to understand what’s going on. This helps her to be a better Mum next time.

You can even start getting to know your baby before they are born: have a look at this video to find out more.

Thanks to the Getting to Know Your Baby project for letting us include this video. Copyright owned by NSPCC and Warwick Medical School: www.your-baby.org.uk

Can you help parents and caregivers to ‘tune in’ to their babies’ minds?

We have been working with health visitors and perinatal mental health teams around the country to help them support mothers suffering from mental illness. In our work on residential mother-and-baby units in London, we have developed an intervention to help mothers become more tuned in to their babies’ minds. Mothers watch film clips of themselves interacting with their babies. With the support of psychologists on the units, the mothers gain insight from the clips into what their babies might be thinking or feeling. In this short interview, a mother describes her experiences of receiving our intervention. 

Tips for tuning into your baby



Mother looking closely at her babySpend time just watching your baby without doing anything much. Imagine what they might be seeing, what they might be feeling, and what they might be thinking.  Notice what they look at, and how they respond to things that happen. Imagine what it must feel like to be them.


Woman with her hand to her earListen out for what your baby’s sounds and cries tell you.  Babies have different cries for different things, like a tired cry, a hungry cry and a bored cry.  See if you can spot what’s up from the different cries.  Also listen to the other sounds they make.  What does that ‘coo’ mean?  Are they saying ‘hello’?  When they make an excited noise, what are they so impressed with?


Think about words that describe your baby. How would you explain to someone else what they were like? For example:

☺ Are they nervous? Or are they really curious and confident?

☺ Are they friendly, quick to smile and greet people, or are they a bit shy, do they need a bit of time to get used to people?

☺ What do they find funny? Do they have a silly sense of humour like their Dad, or are they more serious like you?

☺ Do they get bored easily, or will they be really interested in the same toy for ages?

☺ Are they really patient or do they get frustrated having to wait a moment for things like milk?

☺ Are they gentle and peaceful, or are they excited and energetic?

Of course, your baby might be all of these things on different days! Thinking about them in this way will help you to notice patterns and their personality developing over time. This will give you a better understanding of who your baby is.


Talk to your baby about what you think they are experiencing inside, using the word ‘you’ to really get the focus on them.  Try to stay in the present moment, talk about what’s going on for them right now and give lots of detail – for example – ‘Oh, you are really enjoying pulling those straps, you just love figuring out how they work’.  This helps your baby to understand why they do certain things, and to feel good about themselves.

You and your family can start talking to your baby even before they are born, like the parents in this video:

Thanks to the Getting to Know Your Baby project for letting us include this video. Copyright owned by NSPCC and Warwick Medical School: www.your-baby.org.uk


mum with baby on knee facing inAn excellent way to get to know your baby better is to get down on their level and PLAY!  It might feel like a long time ago since you were in their place, but you can easily find your inner child and get in to the spirit of being playful with them!  Babies are in the best mood for play when they are well rested, well fed and have a clean nappy.

Look for signs that they want to play, like responding to your eye contact or smiling.  If they don’t seem interested, or they seem more interested in something else just then, don’t force them, but try again a while later.  Depending what age your baby is, what you play with them will be different.  Have a look at the play ideas at different ages.