Babies communicate long before they learn their first words. They can feel a range of emotions from birth and even express them. In fact, if you watch closely, you can notice patterns in their facial expressions, sound and behaviors that are as good as language to parents.
You’ve probably looked at your child and thought, “He’s a little hungry, but mostly wants a nap.” You know this because you’ve learned the code.
Here are some common cues for parents to “read” their children.
1. Back arching – This cue looks like your baby is uncomfortable, because he is. He’s essentially moving his face and head away from some stimulation, even if that stimulus is internal. He could be uncomfortable, in pain, finished feeding, or dealing with reflux. Give your baby some space or change his position until he seems comfortable.
2. Rubbing eyes and/or ears – This is usually a sign of tiredness (since we can physically feel tiredness in our faces). Tugging at the ear can also indicate an ear infection. Start your naptime routine as soon as you see this cue. If the ear-grabbing is persistent, take baby’s temperature to determine if he/she has an ear infection.
3. Rooting – This survival reflex is how babies find food. They’ll turn their head whenever something touches their cheek. It happens every time they feel pressure during the first month, but fades over time. Use this cue to help your baby feed. Simply touch the breast or bottle nipple to his/her cheek to get him/her to open the mouth.
4. Looking away – Averting their gaze means a baby needs less stimulation for a moment. If they feel overwhelmed or overstimulated, they’ll un-focus their eyes and look at nothing. They might gaze at something familiar, like their fingers or toes. In worst cases, they’ll cry. When this happens, don’t force your baby to look at anything in particular or try to get baby’s attention. Wait quietly until baby is ready for more interaction.
5. Crying – Crying is the only way your baby has of expressing his displeasure. A cry is clear that your baby wants something, but what? Actually, cries can be quite sophisticated at an early age and babies often exhibit the same types of cries for the same needs.
A hunger cry is usually short, low-pitched with increasing intensity (especially after sleep). A pain cry is sudden, sharp and each burst is twice as long as usual and continuous, meaning the pitch and tone is the same. A tried or cranky cry is more of a moan, softer and quieter, but still irritating. It’s often long and low.
6. Smiling – Smiles are great, but don’t get too excited during the first couple months. These are called reflex smiles and don’t correlate to your child’s feelings. After two months, however, a smile is a wonderful indicator of your baby’s happiness. Work to bring out as many of these as you can!
7. Sudden startle – The startle reflex is a survival instinct that’s present at birth, but fades by six months. Don’t be alarmed, this doesn’t hurt your baby, but it can frighten them and wake them up. You can prevent wakeups by swaddling them during sleep to limit the startle and make them feel secure.
8. Babbling/cooing – These aren’t just random sounds. These are your baby practicing language and he/she is usually looking at someone when they try. Not only are these the beginnings of speech, but you can infer somethings from the ton of the sounds (like anger, sadness, discomfort, angst, happiness) just like you would anyone else. Encourage these sounds by speaking back to your child, even though they aren’t contributing to the conversation.
Written by Jennifer Cicci of Babee Talk
As a mother, Jennifer understands the importance of offering nothing by the best for baby. Motivated by teeth marks on her children’s cribs, she decided to design a teething rail cover after trying products that didn’t measure up when it came to quality or style. What she found out made her even more concerned about children’s safety and health: The toxic chemicals used in the production of synthetic materials have been linked to birth defects, reproductive disorders, and weakened immune systems.
She asked herself, “What if I could revolutionize the way parents decorated their crib with a safe and stylish teething rail cover that could be placed on the crib from day one?” Babee Talk® launched in 2014 with organic bedding and accessories. Chew-friendly, drool-friendly, and organic inside and out, her products ensure a healthy start in life for babies.
She only offers products that she would provide for her own children. She hopes moms and dads will start to talk about the importance of choosing safe, healthy, eco-friendly products, especially for babies.
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