Much like a visitor from another land, your baby is a foreign being when they first come into this world. Neither will s/he understand your language nor are you going to understand their language. But hey, there’s good news too! The fast learners that they are, they will recognise your voice, right from their time in the womb. Along with the skill of communication, there are other things that help in making up the whole persona of your baby. Let’s look into them.
Words - when do they actually begin to understand them
To begin with, he won’t get anything you say to him. Rather he will be calmed listening to your voice as he recognises it. There is trust and he remembers this voice from the time when he was in the womb. Then there are certain periods when the baby begins to show signs of understanding.
First, comes the simple hand gestures phase. Around the time, when they are seven months old, most babies begin to respond by showing simple, cute hand gestures. A simple way to portray it will be when s/he tries to raise their hand indicating s/he wants to be picked up, immediately!
Then there is the time around nine months when they will begin to respond to their name. Repeated mentioning of the same sound makes them accustomed to that word and develops a kind of linking which is ever so prevalent as soon as someone calls them by their name.
Eventually, there is the actual responding phase between 12 to 15 months when the baby learns to interact with simple requests. Like he will stop on hearing the word ‘stop’, he will give away whatever he is holding on hearing the word ‘give’ and so on. Typically, he would learn to respond to simple requests.
Emotions - how are they understood by babies?
It’s hard to categorize them on a general basis, as they are as diverse as the adults themselves. But if we bound the criteria of emotion around a certain age, it would be 3. The act of fear, genuine love, respect and care for the family members begins to be inundated into the child.
The emotional understanding of a child can be a difficult thing, that too without expectations. You shouldn't expect from a little baby to shower love and affection upon you because you have gone through such labour to bring them into the world. Attachment is a process.
The sweetest act to start off will be your resemblance to them. S/He will prefer you to other people, your lap, your embrace, your touch to other people’s. Basically, s/he is going to feel safe with you and that is one of the best feelings. A kind of reciprocating by them, so to say.
They are going to smile as they spot you. They will pick up that favourite toy or that teddy you bought them. They are going to latch onto it and make it their own. They will stare, right at you, in an intimidating yet cute way. These and many other signs start to indicate that the emotional bonding is being developed.
And finally - more complex understanding
Your baby is well versed with you, your voice, the embrace you have - basically every thing related to your presence. Now is the fun time - the time to play and to teach them, the time to make them understand the world, bit by bit, slowly - in pieces.
Take for instance the simple act of crawling. Your baby will get playful. They will try to pull away, and as soon as they far, they will come right back crawling. And the best part - this only happens near you. The feeling of closeness and understanding develops.
When you will try to rock her or even throw her up in the air playfully, they will still laugh and wiggle. They understand you now and trust you. This is a crucial understanding, which again won’t be found with other people around.
And the best of all - they in their own cute way, will try to imitate you. They are completely open to you now and feel free in your presence. They might not understand the meaning of ‘Maa’ and ‘Paa’ but they certainly have ingrained the emotion.
To define understanding, that too of babies at such a tender age, one might get into many complexities. What we feel is, the time you spend alone with your baby in their tender age is what defines their understanding sphere.