Parenting Resources

Positive Reinforcement for Newborns and Infants

  • Newborns and young infants develop a sense of security and trust when parents are available to meet their physical needs in a timely manner.  Infant cries are specifically geared to gain parental attention so the infant is nourished and kept safe.
  • Parents timely response to their infants’ cries provides positive reinforcement to the child that parents are available and needs will be met, so security and trust can develop appropriately.
  • Infants also respond positively to soothing voices, gentle touches, swaddling, rocking, and other calm parental interactions.
  • For most parents, the question arises, “When can we take more time to respond to our infant’s needs?”  or “At what age can we allow our infant to self-soothe before we respond?”  This is basically asking at what point does our positive reinforcement begin teaching the infant to cry inappropriately. 
  • The answer – this depends upon each infant’s unique temperament and development and the interaction between parents and infants.
  • However, by nine months of age, most infants can begin to understand the concept of “no” and so parental responses can be tempered to avoid providing positive reinforcement for negative behaviors.