Full of individual differences and strong personality traits, we are a fascinating species right from birth. Babies may not come with instruction manuals but they communicate with us through their body language right from the start. As parents, all we need to do is pay attention to know how they feel and what they may need from us.
Babies are completely dependent on their caregivers. Thus, when we understand the cues and respond to them, it not only strengthens our relationship but also builds trust. When a baby’s needs are taken care of in a loving, comforting way, it makes them feel safe and secure. It also helps to improve their communication skills over time.
No matter how many books and blogs we read, a cookie-cutter approach to understanding your baby never works. As all babies are different, it's essential to pay attention to your baby's individual cues so you can respond in the most effective way.
One of the most important cues to pay attention to is your baby's cries. Crying is a baby's way of expressing needs and communicating, so it's important to pay attention to the tone and intensity of your baby's cries. Babies can cry for several reasons - they may be tired, hungry, thirsty, too hot or cold, bored, scared, lonely, or sick.
As we spend more time with the little one, we can begin to differentiate one cry from the other and know exactly what to do. A baby's high-pitched, screaming cry may state a need for food or comfort, while a low-pitched whimper may signal tiredness.
Babies are moody but not unpredictable. Essentially there are 5 stages they go through:
- I am hungry - turning towards breast/bottle, making sucking sounds
- I want to play - making eye contact, smiling, cooing, moving their arms/legs, and other ‘engagement cues’
- I need a break - jerky arm and leg movements, avoiding eye contact
- I am tired/ sleepy - cry, yawn, get grumpy or restless, becoming quiet
- I am unwell - constantly crying, not interested in feeding, or any other activity, unable to sleep well
Learning to recognize your baby’s cues, such as facial expressions, hand gestures, and body movements in each of these stages can give you an indication of what they might need.
You will see a mixture of engagement and disengagement signals as you care for your baby. Take your time learning how your baby communicates when playing, when feeling a little overwhelmed and needing a break, and when hungry, or tired.
Although your baby's signals may appear to be ambiguous at first, you will quickly develop a sense of one another if you spend some time observing and being together.
As parents, we are all always learning and evolving with our children. Your infant will learn to communicate with each individual in their world in his or her own unique way. At the same time, you and your spouse will learn to respond to your child's cues in a unique, loving way that makes them know you are there.