Babies use body language to tell you what they want. Watching what your baby does and how baby responds to what you do will help you understand your baby’s body language.
They might not use words to say what they want, but babies certainly have their own way of telling you what’s going on.
As newborns, they cry – and cry and cry. You get to know the different kinds of crying. A couple of months in, there’s the adorable smiling. From about five months, babies might start to chatter and babble.
On top of all this, babies also speak with their bodies.
Learning your baby’s body language is about getting to know your baby. Of course you’ll be spending lots of time holding your baby as you perform all the practical tasks of care. But the key to understanding is really watching everything your baby does.
Learning from baby’s body movements
Look at all the parts of your baby’s body, and note the way baby’s:
- feet kick
- hands clasp
- face changes with different expressions.
Watch how your baby moves arms and legs to see which things cause distress or make baby startle – sun in the eyes, the cat running past, or a loud noise from the street.
You will also see what calms and reassures your baby.
Learning from baby’s responses
Watch how your baby responds to your communication and touch, and learn what comforts baby. As your baby grows and begins to smile, return smiles as much as possible.
Babies as young as eight weeks old can tell the difference between people. Babies will have different physical responses to different people, depending on their relationship with the baby.
Recognising baby’s feelings
Learn to recognise when your baby is wide awake and alert, crying, fussy, or at different stages of sleep. Eventually you will become familiar with these and be able to predict your baby’s patterns.
Learn to tell when your baby is tired. Watch for:
- droopy eyelids and slow blinking
- stiff and jerky movements
- whining and irritability (younger babies)
- being wound-up
- crankiness or moodiness
- eye rubbing
- clinginess (older babies).
You’ll also learn to understand what your baby is saying to you. The way you respond to your baby – whether you put baby to sleep when baby’s looking overtired or offer a feed when baby’s hungry – can help settle baby into a routine. It is easier to build a routine if you do things in the same way most days.
Communicating with baby
Alert babies are more interested in communicating. Talk to your baby quietly and rhythmically and use lots of facial expressions. After all, your baby is reading your face too. Babies can watch what you’re doing and slowly get used to the idea that they can communicate with you, and you with them.
Before your baby learns to talk, there’ll be experiments with sounds – anything that can get a response! This includes sneezing, coughing, gagging and squealing. Later, vowel sounds begin. These noises are attempts to engage your attention. The way you respond, however silly, will help your baby learn to communicate.