Last updated on Jun 11th, 2021 at 12:08 pm

 By Angela Barry

Contentment means to show satisfaction with things as they are. Development experts say that contentment and being happy are closely linked but they’re not something you can give a child. But according to psychiatrist and author, Edward Hallowell, any parent can lay the groundwork for it. He also stresses the importance of helping little ones develop a set of inner tools they can rely on for life.

Understand the signs

Babies express their needs in different ways and it’s important to know the signals. Babies in distress cry with the corners of their mouths turned down and their eyebrows arched in the middle. Angry babies become flushed, have clenched jaws, turned down eyebrows and let out an uncontrollable yell.

Learn to have fun

Hallowell says moms make their babies happiest: “Connect with your baby, play with her. If you’re having fun, she’s having fun. It’s by far the best step to guarantee your child will be happy.”

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

Happy babies like to learn

Your baby will be delighted when she finally gets the spoon into her mouth and takes those first steps. She learns through persistence and mistakes and feels happy when she takes control of something. So spend time teaching her new skills and allow her the freedom to choose. Children, like adults, must follow their own interests or they’ll find little joy in their achievements.

Healthy body – contented child

Your baby enjoys stretching, crawling and kicking. The release of energy and exercise will continually satisfy her. Make sure she gets lots of sleep and pay attention to her diet. Observe connections between her moods and certain foods. Sugar, for example, boosts some babies but make others fussy. Food sensitivities can also affect behaviour so talk to your paediatrician if you suspect her diet is linked to signs of distress.

The value of routine

Apart from helping you, establishing a routine provides a feeling of security for your baby. Keep in mind that premature and low birth-weight babies may sleep for shorter spells and feed more often.

Don’t confuse unhappiness with natural feelings

Sometimes moms overreact to sad or angry babies. Dr Carrie Masia-Warner of NYU School of Medicine says: “It’s normal for kids to become oversensitive or clingy at times because of something in their environment, but it’s not unhappiness.” Being unhappy now and again is okay and part of growing up.

Set a good example

Your moods and feelings can be passed on to your baby. Negative moods can make them unhappy and vice versa. If you think you’re depressed, seek help so you can restore the bonding and fun times with your baby.
Bringing dad into the mix
Where possible, your partner or husband should put these tips into practice too as he plays a vital role in your baby’s development. As she approaches 12 months, the strong security and comfort she gets from dad will bring her much joy and contentment.

The boon of breastfeeding

While breastfeeding doesn’t exclusively make babies happy, close nurturing at a mother’s breast brings much comfort and contentment and provides an opportunity for bonding. If you’re unable to breastfeed, make sure that you hold your baby close, as you would while breastfeeding – don’t prop her up with a bottle.

Brain-boosting effects

Associate Professor of Psychology at Notre Dame, Darcia Narvaez, explains why it’s important for babies to feel contented: “A baby’s development unfolds on a set maturational schedule. So if there is inadequate food or attention during this rapid-growth period, the brain will build less-than-optimal systems. A poor foundation leads to poor mental and physical health later even though it may not show up until much later.

Click here for strategies on soothing your crying baby.