/, INFANT SIGNALS/Your Baby’s Earliest Feelings – Part I

Your Baby’s Earliest Feelings – Part I

Let’s take a brief look at your baby’s earliest feelings. You might ask “How do you know my baby even has feelings?” Great question! After all, the baby is not using words yet to tell you how he/she is feeling! I’ll explore this question later when discussing how feelings work, but for now the answer lies primarily in the facial expressions of your baby.

Current research shows that your baby is born with about 8 to 10 built-in feelings, as shown by the facial expressions. Although there are some interesting controversies in this area, the best information available now suggests humans are born with 9 feelings:

  • Interest (curiosity)
  • Enjoyment
  • Surprise
  • Distress
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Shame
  • Disgust (a reaction to noxious tastes)
  • Dissmell (a reaction to noxious odors)

9 Feelings/Facial Expressions

Interest

INTEREST

Enjoyment

ENJOYMENT

Surprise

SURPRISE

Distress

DISTRESS

Anger

ANGER

Fear

FEAR

Disgust

DISGUST (TASTE)

Shame

SHAME

Dismell (Odor)

DISSMELL (ODOR)

Believe it or not, these are your baby’s earliest feelings! Most of them are apparent within the first few days of your baby’s life. Over time, they will combine with experience and with each other to form our more complex emotional life. This is the embryology of feelings!These feelings operate on a low-to-high scale, so that the range of feelings looks like this:

  • Interest – Excitement
  • Enjoyment – Joy
  • Surprise – Startle
  • Distress – Anguish
  • Anger – Rage
  • Fear – Terror
  • Shame – Humiliation
  • Disgust – lower to higher levels
  • Dissmell – lower to higher levels

“But,” you might say, “What do all these look like? How does my baby communicate these feelings? And, most importantly, what do I do with them?!”

Again, great questions! And if you use these feelings to understand your baby, parenting – and your life – becomes a lot easier… so, that’s where we’ll start next time!

Suggested Readings

  • Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life
    Ekman, Paul. New York: Henry Holt, 2003
  • The Interpersonal World of the Infant
    Stern, Daniel. New York: Basic Books, 1985.
  • Affect Imagery Consciousness (Volume III): The Negative Affects: Anger and Fear
    Tomkins, Silvan S. New York: Springer, 1991
2018-01-18T14:46:47+00:00