The Cheat-Sheet for Interpreting Baby Language From 0 – 12 Months
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Last Updated: October 18, 2020
The first year of baby development is arguably very exciting and yet frustrating for first time parents. While it is satisfying to give birth to a baby, it is another thing raising her up! The first year is when the baby screams the most, makes faces, thrusts the arms, kicks a lot, stuffs everything in the mouth, and coos and bubbles in order to communicate. Most of these activities add up to what is known as baby language development.
Besides the adventures listed above, babies will, however, do one thing the most – Cry! They will cry a lot, and sometimes for no apparent reason, but simply because they can! This may come as a surprise to the unprepared parents, who somehow discover they have to deal with the complex dilemma of a wordless baby vocabulary.
Well, sounds familiar? Then probably you may want to understand this language a little better
The complex baby language
Babies would actually prefer to talk and save themselves the pain of having to cry or use other motor indicators and reflexes. But it is all they know. They are incapable of communicating the way older children do, not until they are 9 months old. They are genetically wired to express hunger, anger, sleep, fatigue, and discomfort, through non-verbal communication.
Babies will do these using sound, facial, and gestural reflexes. They will also use similar cues to express the universal desire to be held and cuddled.
Your ability to interpret baby language signs will go a long way to help sort out their pain and discomfort, and sometimes fend off the health complications that may arise.
The cheat-sheet for interpreting baby language
Generally, babies will use the following clues to get their message across, and you may want to understand them well in order to delve deep into the non-verbal baby communication:
1. Common baby sounds
Through the first year of life, babies will use different kinds of sounds to convey different messages. While the sounds may seem incomprehensible at first, you will soon get used to them. It is not until they are 9 months old, that they will begin making sense of what they say. From the word go, your baby will cry, scream, squeal, coo, grunt, chuckle, growl, belch, babble, and sigh, in order to let you know what they feel and need.
Hunger happens to be the main reason babies cry the most. The condition known as colic will also make babies cry through to the third month.
Besides crying, your baby will coo through vowels such as ohh, ahh, eh, and growl using consonants like k, b, p, g starting in the 3rd month or thereabout.
According to singer Pricilla Dunstan of Dunstan Baby Language, the following baby sounds come with their meanings:
- Neh means hunger
- Eh indicates the desire to burp
- Eairh is a sign of gas
- Heh points to discomfort due to hot, cold, or wet conditions
- Owh points to sleepiness
The baby will also squeal, gurgle, and snort due to several reasons. The squealing is indicative of delight, but can also point to discomfort if it continues for a long time.
Gurgling and snorting may indicate congestion. Baby congestion happens early in life because,
- they are battling remnants of amniotic fluid from the mother
- they have tiny airways, making it hard for mucus to flow, coupled with the inability to blow the mucus out
- they can only breath using the nose, unlike older children and adults who also use the mouth
your baby spent their first nine months of existence submerged in amniotic fluid. After delivery, there may be residual amounts of fluid left in their sinuses, which can make your little one congested.What Causes Baby Congestion?
Your baby will also growl to express anger at not being fed fast enough, discomfort in because of a lack of stimulation. Your baby will also chuckle, sigh, and belch to reflect contentment, as a result of tickling, a response to humor, and tummy fullness.
Babbling at 4 – 6 months will also happen as the kid is learning to utter new-found words. Depending on your language, words such as ma, ba, da may be used to mean mama, baba, and daddy, or nothing at all.
The sounds may actually represent what they hear around them and will pick this up in the months to follow. Babies will mimic their favorite sounds as heard from birds, a catchy chorus in a song, or even the sound of a siren if one passes by regularly. Babies will become ecstatic when their favorite bird passes by, their catchy song is played, and when an ambulance drives by.
2. Common body gestures in babies
Motor development in babies starts the day they are born when they experiment with rooting & sucking reflexes. Somehow, the baby will crane the neck in the direction of the nipple out of reflex. The same is true when your baby is touched on either side of the cheek. She will turn towards the affected side with the mouth open and ready for suckling.
This and other automatic body reflexes are normal responses to help babies feed, and respond to extremes in the environment such as noise, light, and temperature. The jerky arms and legs, and twisting of the head from side to side are also helpful in strengthening body muscles.
Inside the second month, your baby will notice the presence of her own arm and will try to place the fingers, and thumbs in particular, inside the mouth. Your baby will suck the fingers to signal hunger, stimulation, boredom, and exploration of body parts, and during the teething months, to relieve pressure on the gums.
Your baby will also communicate by using other body gestures such as wiggling, arching, coiling, yawning, clenching fists, crawling, and stretching of the arms and legs.
Wiggling is usually accompanied by crying very early on to indicate rapid development in the nervous system, something you should not worry about.
These movements are pretty uncoordinated, with arms and legs flailing about, largely because of this rapid neurological development in the first few months of life.Baby Center
When the crying and wiggling goes to the extremes, you may want to swaddle your baby.
At around 6 – 7 months when the baby is learning to crawl, she will use body position by pointing to where she wants to go. She will beckon to be lifted up by show of hands and lean/crawl in a certain direction to let you know where she wants to be taken.
Extreme coiling and arching of the back, in addition to stretching of the arms and legs, may indicate pain in the stomach such as acid reflux, nerve damage, and cerebral palsy, but only if. You should be particularly worried if these are accompanied by non-stop crying. Most of the time, however, arching and coiling are indicative of colic, other pain, or simply hunger.
Yawning may indicate the baby is in a relaxed state of mental wellbeing, is bored, tired, and desires to sleep. On the other hand, stretching of the arms and legs may indicate the baby is relaxed. Your baby could be hungry when she clenches the fists.
3. Common facial expressions & signs
Your baby will smile and use eye contact, in addition to numerous other facial expressions to communicate with you. A smile during the 1st and 2nd months is usually a reflex response and can happen when the baby is passing gas. As the baby grows into the 3rd month however, the smiles evolve into responses to your smiles and are indicative of a learning curve.
This development in baby language shows the baby is actually learning the skills necessary to communicate.
Babies also show responses to anger, boredom, excitement, fear, and discomfort through facial expression. They will twist their faces and cry to show anger, and throw objects around to indicate boredom as a result of overstimulation. Upon changing the environment, they will promptly relax. Your baby will depict fear by closing the eyes and will grin while moving hands and legs, to show excitement.
Babies are also good at using their eyes to draw attention and focus on a new person or object of interest. The long unbroken stare, even way beyond 2 – 3 months mean they are curious about a person or object they are looking at.
There are multiple other reasons why babies stare:
For example, you might see your toddler gazing at you to get your attention (Won’t you come play with me?). You might also see your child watching you to learn something new (Now how do I press the cell phone buttons?).Reading Your Child’s Cues from Birth to Age 2
Your role as a parent
It is important to note that the language developments discussed above will not happen at the same time-frame for all babies, for one reason or another. The timeline of sounds, gestures, and facial expressions may vary due to the environment, the health of the baby, and other external factors.
Nonetheless, your role as a parent is to facilitate language acquisition as much as possible.
- Talk to your baby regularly
- Sing to your baby because they love hearing your voice and sweet melodies
- Prioritize breast milk since it is the ultimate antidote against illnesses
- Create a healthy environment and hygiene for the baby to achieve the development milestones without hindrances
Finally, take them out. After about 4 months and growing, children desire to be sited outdoors to experience nature first hand. The outdoor experience is extremely important for baby language and overall development because it allows them to interact with nature and develop further the senses of sound, smell, sight, and touch.