The love languages of babies and toddlers

Zofishan Umair
Zofishan Umair
Zofishan is a journalist, humour columnist, and a mum who has survived nappy explosions mid-air. She has over a decade of experience writing for print and online publications and is currently working on her first book.
Created on May 25, 2024 · 7 mins read

You're exhausted, sleep-deprived, and dressed in a milk-stained t-shirt you changed into three days ago. You haven't washed your hair in, well, let's just say it's been a while. Your wailing 6-month-old clings tightly to you while your toddler keeps shoving half-eaten food into your mouth before taking a break to summit your tiny frame. In those chaotic moments, a little thought creeps into your mind and you start to wonder if your children even like you. Or do they just hang around because you happen to be the source of snacks, and frankly, they don't have an alternate choice?

What is love? Baby, don't hurt me, Don't hurt me, no more!


Well, Haddaway was still trying to figure it out, so it’s okay if as a parent to a newborn we’re questioning our sanity and relationships, right?

Fun fact: Every parent, whether they’ve popped out a baby or adopted one, has, at some point, questioned themselves and tried to figure out if their baby ‘loves them — loves them.’ And not just ‘love them’ in the way birds love a good seed dispenser or a bird bath.

So, do they? And if yes, how can we tell?

Well, save the daisy petals for the teen years, because here are the seven signs your baby loves you! (And we mean love-love!)

Does my baby love me?


Yes! Your baby loves you!

How do we know?

Well, for one, you can consider those wails for you as loud verbal declarations of love. Your baby loves you, wants you, and only Y.O.U! They recognise your smell and instantly feel safe, so there’s no fooling them. Nature programmed these cuties with survival instincts designed to attract love, which is why they’ve perfected the soulful gaze.

But before we discuss babies and the seven signs they love you, we need to understand developmental milestones and behavioral cues.


Language and developmental milestones


Your child’s love language is no doubt pretty different from that of adults, hence why they communicate their feelings and big emotions in different ways. These change as they age. A baby shows affection through simple acts like smiling at you, while an 18-month-old climbing up and down your back while you try to nap might be one of the telltale signs your toddler loves you!

Just like a cat brings a dead rat to your doorstep to show affection, your baby, toddler, or preschooler may opt for adorable and sometimes unexpected ways. So yes, even a booger may be one of the signs your preschooler loves you.

And while the crying, clinginess, and tantrums may leave you feeling unloved, these seven signs can remind you that your baby loves you.


7 signs that your baby loves you


I know you!
Your baby knows who you are, what you sound like, and what you smell like (to your newborn, nothing smells sweeter than you!)

Plus, another sign: your babies stare at you. You might notice that your baby is unable to take their eyes off you (especially when they’re being held by someone else). This is your baby being utterly enamoured by you and wanting your reassurance that they’re safe. As they grow older, they look at your facial expressions to know if they are okay.

Babies will smile back
Your baby smiling and looking at you is a subconscious effort a baby learns naturally to bond with you in another sign of love.

Physical touch and holding up their arms to be held
Babies love physical affection, and it’s where they create those strong bonds with you. As your baby develops, they will start to reach out to you, a clear sign they love you and trust you. This in turn encourages secure attachment, which is critical for healthy emotional development throughout your baby’s lifetime.

Crying for you
While crying can make you feel like they don’t love you, it’s actually quite the opposite. Separation anxiety isn’t pleasant for your baby, and is a sign of deep love, as they know you’re their primary person.

They freak out when you leave
Sometimes it can feel overwhelming and upsetting when your baby only wants you. Remember it is because you are their safe space to feel what they need to feel and not hold it in. They know that you will love them no matter what, and that is truly special.

They run to you when they’re hurt
Kiss the boo-boo and so on. Your baby or toddler turning to you for protection means your baby loves you and trusts you.

Mimicking facial expressions
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and kids copy our facial expressions while toddlers imitate their parents in actions and tones.

How do I know if my baby has bonded with me?


We’re told staring is rude, but when babies stare into your eyes with a tiny smile lighting up their face, it sends a warm and fuzzy feeling right over. It’s also a darn cute sign of affection. Other little hints may include seeking solace in your arms, finding comfort and security in your presence, and preferring you stay nearby.

As babies grow up and start achieving developmental milestones, they make sounds in response to your voice. If you make sounds in return, they’ll love that!

When do babies start showing affection?


When babies reach the 6-month mark, they start to become expressive. This is when they use their means to show affection to their caregivers. They may ask you to pick them up or try to talk to you. Your baby might even attack your face with their cute little toothless mouths and lick your face. Six months is usually when babies start understanding that they’re separate from their mother, so they start to show a bit more affection.

Although the real timeframe is around their first birthday, since they’re all grown up and understand emotions and expressions. Those little wet kisses are the sincerest form of affection. 

Why does my toddler resist affection?


Get all the snuggles when you can, because when children transition from infancy to toddlerhood, their perception of their own being shifts drastically. 

Toddlers then begin to explore new things, feelings, and emotions, the most important of which is independence. During toddlerhood, most kids prefer to do things their way and realise that being independent is a lot more fun than depending on mum and dad. This newly explored freedom allows them to become more assertive, refusing touch and physical affection in return. So if your toddler pushes you away when asked for a hug, be assured that it’s their big baby energy channeling through. It’s a phase of them learning how to be independent and confident.

At what age do babies feel love?


While we can’t measure a baby’s love in quite the same way we do for grown-ups, the bond between a parent and child only grows stronger over time as they share experiences, emotions, and countless moments of connection. There isn’t an exact time frame, but little signs help us identify when they enjoy the undivided attention being showered on them. 

Around 6 to 8 months, you might notice your little one reaching out for you, getting excited when you enter the room, or feeling upset when you leave.

By their first year, many babies clearly show affection and attachment to their caregivers, though each child’s way of expressing these feelings can be unique.

How do you know if your child feels loved?


Trying to understand if your child loves you is all about tuning into their cues, knowing their needs, and noticing the little things that speak volumes. Here are some ways to tell:

  • Look for signs of affection: Does your child give cuddles and kisses? These gestures often reflect the love they feel.
  • When your child seeks comfort, whether after a scraped knee or a tough day at school, do they turn to you? Their trust in your comforting presence is a clear indicator of the love and security they find in you. 
  • Do they communicate? Feeling heard and supported without judgment is a powerful expression of love and their understanding of you should give you a good hint at your perception in their heads. 
  • Your child wants to spend time with you: This is another way of your child telling you they feel loved and protected around you. Assess how much time your child spends with you by their own will and whether they enjoy it or not. 

You know your baby, unlike anyone else, and they know that. You know how to cuddle them right, make them laugh, and understand their needs. You are doing a great job, and your little bub knows it. They love you unconditionally and they know you do too!

Sources


Better Health Channel, Child development (3) – six to nine months. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/child-development-3-six-to-nine-months

Winston, R. and Chicot, R. (2016) ‘The importance of early bonding on the long-term mental health and resilience of children,’ London Journal of Primary Care, 8(1), pp. 12–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/17571472.2015.1133012.

Woodhouse, S.S. et al. (2019) ‘Secure base provision: a new approach to examining links between maternal caregiving and infant attachment,’ Child Development, 91(1). https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13224

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