Imagine if your baby say that to you:
“Trust me, mum (dad/nan/responsible adult in charge of me) I know exactly what I am doing”
What would you do – apart from double checking that the drink was not spiked – would you relax and stand in awe or would you just turn and say “oh, please! You are a baby!”
I would incite you to think again on what your answer would be under this hypothetical situation. It is difficult, it is not? This beautiful human being, just arrived in your life, needs your whole attention from feeding to dressing almost 24/7 – yes, discount a few hours of sleep here and there – so how can she/he be able to “ know exactly what he/she is doing”? How could somebody who depends her/his entire life somehow can know exactly what are they doing?
The answer is simple really. They know what they are doing: they are learning. They are learning about what surrounds them, who surrounds them. When they cry, they are learning to “ask” in the only possible way known to them at that time for food, for warmth, for comforting. And they are learning as well who are those “giants” (a.k.a. parents/carers) who respond to that cry.
The baby will “take mental notes” of the voices, smells, main features of the face of the carer, and the way the carer handles he/she. The baby will feel the “mood” of the carer too.
When you see a baby gazing around and you are wondering what they may be thinking, the baby is learning about the space and is starting to see what is near, what is far and as soon as she/he is strong enough to move – they will know when, and you will know as well, because you will see it – they will try to grab what they see, reach to it. And then is when they discover the beginning and end of their bodies.
When they start to gaze at those two marvellous things on their sides, later to be known as hands, they can spend hours looking at them. Have you ever stop to gaze at your hands and truly observe them, noticing every wrinkle, every knuckle, the tips of your finger?
And for a baby it gets even better when they discover those things at the far end, called feet. And, as the hands, they will end up in their mouths.
All these processes are not to be belittled; they take a “huge” effort from the baby and is one of the fundamental cornerstones for development in every possible sense: physical, emotional, and cognitive.
Physical because they start to learn about their bodies and the boundaries and how to go beyond those; emotional because they start to recognise emotions such as joy when they can touch what they see, they can reach what is near or perhaps frustration because they cannot do so; and cognitive because they start to recognise distances – near or far, for example – and is setting the baseline for what later in life will be other cognitive capabilities such as speech and concentration.
Because they require a fantastic effort from the baby, only him/her will do all this on their own good time; a baby *knows* when is ready to learn all this, when is ready to do this effort.
Trust the baby. He/she knows what is doing.