Did you know that your baby can communicate with you even before they utter their first words?
From the time they are born, babies develop a need to express themselves. During the first few months, 90% of communication between parents and babies is non-verbal. They often cry as a way to express hunger or exhaustion. But there are subtle cues that, when paid attention to, can help you get to know your baby more.
Each baby is different, but what they have in common is their tendency to make faces, like frowning or wrinkling their forehead, which means they are responding to the world around them. They’re also cute little copycats! That’s why they tend to laugh or copy the wacky faces you make when you’re playing with them.
At about 3 to 6 months, babies start to imitate facial expressions of fear, sadness, or surprise. Always remember that babies are observant and that you should be careful not to look so stressed around them. Relax your muscles and hug them tight while rubbing their backs. They may not understand what upsets you, but they will learn the concept of the comfort of their parent’s touch.
Breaking eye contact
When babies avert their gaze, it may mean they are overwhelmed and need a break.
“From about two months on, babies disconnect if they’re feeling overwhelmed or over stimulated,” author and Psychology professor Linda Acredolo, Ph.D. tells Parenting.com. “Sometimes, the baby will turn his head to the side almost stubbornly, or play with his fingers or toes, or even start crying—anything to break contact with an adult.”
For new parents, Dr. Acredelo’s advise is to allow the baby some downtime and refrain from forcing them to look back by tickling or talking to them. Once they turn back to you, that’s when you can reconnect with them.
At about 6 to 8 weeks, your baby starts to smile! This is truly one of the most unforgettable moments for parents. Smiles signal contentment, like a warm towel after a bath, or seeing a familiar face. Parents can encourage more smiles, by saying nice words, smiling back, or laughing.
Arching her back
When your baby does this, they may feel some sort of internal or external discomfort. During breastfeeding, it can also mean she is full. Stopping feeding or changing your baby’s position usually helps remedy this.
Rubbing their eyes or ears
This means that they are tired or feeling something is itchy. They can also pull their ears or rub them, as they are some of the most sensitive parts of their body.
Once you see your baby do this, consider putting them down for a nap. But if your baby has a fever, she may have an ear infection, hence the rubbing. Be sure to take her to the doctor as soon as possible.
Crying because of hunger, pain, or tiredness
There are different reasons why your baby cries. Though they may sound the same at first, you’ll soon be able to differentiate them. For instance, a “hungry cry” is usually short, low-pitched and lasts for a few seconds. If not responded to, it gets more intense. Attending to your baby reassures them and builds trust.
As for the “pain cry,” it’s a cry that doesn’t rise and fall. It’s about twice as long as cries of hunger and it’s usually continuous. Check if your baby’s source of discomfort is a soiled diaper or if she’s too cold or too warm. Inspect her clothing or swaddle, if you can’t seem to calm them, perhaps there is some internal pain that warrants a visit to the doctor immediately.
The “tired cry,” which parents usually note after 3 months, is a softer version of a baby’s “pain cry.” How can you tell? This usually happens when your baby has difficulty sleeping. Try holding and stroking them while rocking them back and forth.
Babbling and laughing
Like we said, babies are cute little copycats and at around 3 months of age, they start to mimic and match their mommy and daddy’s tone of voice. They start to coo and babble and are able to string syllables together. At 6 months and beyond, they begin to learn how to convey emotions through their tone.
Encourage your baby’s language development by babbling back to them. These first conversations will do wonders, not only for their growth, but for your bond as well!
READ: Baby talk: The importance of babbling for baby’s language development
sources: KidsHealth.com, Parenting.com, WebMD, emedicinehealth.com