Parenting Resources

Sensitive or Responsive Parenting for Infants

Infants who perceive their parents to be connected and responsive to them also feel more secure and are able to trust their parents, which will become the basis for later discipline and teaching.

Language Development A  2001 study of maternal responsiveness as measured during videotaped interactions of mother-infant free play showed that language development was enhanced by maternal responsiveness.  (Tamis-LeMonda CS, et al.  Maternal responsiveness and children’s achievement of language milestones. Child Dev 2001; 72(3):748-67.) Infants actually modify their babbling to mirror their mother’s communication style, and respond more when language is combined with appropriate physical touch and body language.  (Tamis-LeMonda CS, et al.  Why Is Infant Language Learning Facilitated by Parental Responsiveness?   Current Directions in Psychological Science 2014;  23(2): 121-127.)

 Problem-solving and cognition Another study showed “increased maternal responsiveness facilitated greater growth in target infants’ social, emotional, communication, and cognitive competence.”  (Landry SH, et al.  Responsive parenting:  establishing early foundations for social, communication, and independent problem-solving skills.  Dev Psychol 2006;  42(4):627-42.)  This study shows us that mothers who know their infants and respond appropriately to them are actually helping their infants’ brains develop.


1. Talk with your infant – constantly.

  • Narrate your day.  “Now I am going to change your diaper”
  • Use baby talk and babbling – and allow your baby time to copy your expressions
  • Also talk in long sentences so your infant learns grammar and syntax of language
  • Today – make a special effort to talk more to your child.  (You may have to turn off your cell phone.)
  • If people in your home speak more than one language, definitely make sure your infant hears both languages.  This will not inhibit your child’s language development, but actually enhances brain development.
  • Fathers talk differently to their children than mothers – and both are important for infant language development.

 2. Know your baby.   Discover your baby’s temperament.  There are many sites on the internet that describe infant temperament. 

 3.  By learning about your infant’s temperament, you will better be able to respond to his or her cues.  You can interpret crying based on your infant’s temperament, not just the situation.

  • Is he overly stimulated and needs a break from the activity? 
  • Is she fearful of a new situation and needs your support and comfort?
  • Is he fussy because he is hungry?

 4.   For the very young infant, try to respond quickly to cries to reassure your baby you are there for him. 

As your baby grows, she will learn to wait a few minutes to be picked up or comforted or fed. Just the sound of your voice will soothe and reassure him because he has learned to trust you.