6 things your crying infant is trying to tell you and how to master their language
Newborns spend a lot of time eating and sleeping. If they begin to cry new parents often assume the baby is hungry or tired. However, your newborn baby has many other needs and has ways of communicating with you. It isn’t easy to decipher your baby’s language, but if you pay close attention to his or her body signals and cry it shouldn’t take long before you can identify their every need.
Parents and professionals have spent much time studying and identifying newborns behaviors and sounds and correlating them to what the baby wants. Australian Pricilla Dunstan has studied sounds and hypothesizes there are 5 universal “infant words” or cry sounds that a baby uses to inform needs. These are described below and may sound similar at first but if you pay attention they are distinctly different. Baby Psychologist also proposed other nonverbal cues that if picked up on can be taken care of before the baby even begins to cry.
- I’m Hungry
Often newborn babies are on a feeding schedule and wanting to eat approximately every 3 hours. A schedule helps clue you in when a baby begins to cry that the cause of the cry is hunger. A hunger cry may be identified as a short lower pitch cry with a “Neh” sound. This sound is produced by the tongue being pressed to the top of the mouth.
- I’m Tired
Newborns typically sleep 16-18 hours a day but only for a few hours at a time. Their awake periods differ in time so It may be hard to understand when the baby is getting sleepy again. They baby will start to turn away from you rather than focus or engage with you. This may be followed by an “Owh” sound or yawning.
- I’m Uncomfortable
There are many things that may cause your newborn discomfort. A wet diaper or cold feet are examples. An uncomfortable baby will let you know by having a choppy cry with a “Heh” sound. This should be a clue to check the diaper or put warm socks on your babies’ feet.
- I’m Playful
A baby obviously does not cry when they want to engage with you in a playful way. Rather they send you other nonverbal ques. This includes smiling, babbling, and making eye contact. A newborn may also raise his or her eyebrows and widen their eyes as well as opening their hands. This is a good time to talk, teach, or play with your baby.
- I’m Overwhelmed
If your baby is upset due to being overwhelmed or overstimulated, it may be hard to distinguish it from signs of hunger or tiredness. Keep an eye out for signs such as a wrinkly forehead or increased heartbeat and fast breathing. The baby may also kick or hold their hands to their ears. This is often followed by an uncomfortable cry.
- I’m Gassy
Gas can be a major source of discomfort to your newborn. An “Eh” sounding cry many mean the baby needs burping. This is caused by air being trapped in the infant’s chest. If you hear a deeper “Eair” cry it may mean the baby has lower gas. The deeper sounds stem from the abdomen. The baby may also pull their knees up or push their legs down to help relieve themselves.
Using these behavioral clues, you may be able to more easily pick up on your baby’s needs. There are also videos and descriptions available online for Pricilla Dunstan’s proposed cry sounds if you wish to hear what they sound like. Never hesitate to ask for advice from caregivers or professionals on what other signs your baby may be giving you.