Understanding your baby’s cues

Understanding your baby’s cues

They say mothers understand babies best. But little does the world know that initially, understanding what a baby wants is a struggle, even for moms. One-size-fits-all does not stand true for everyone, especially for babies. This is where understanding your baby’s body language comes into play. Known as behavioral cues, babies have a unique way of communicating their needs through different expressions. Watch your baby closely and you will find that even when they don't say things, they convey vital emotions through their body language. Responding to these is equally important. When you acknowledge and respond to your baby's cue, it creates a strong foundation for your bond with them as it instills a sense of trust. When faced with a similar situation in the future, it also teaches them to respond appropriately. Discovering little nuances of how to express themselves, they communicate better as they grow up. 

What is your baby trying to tell you?

Look closely and you will notice these small ways in which your baby is trying to communicate with you: 

“I’m feeling uncomfortable” 

Flailing arms or arching bodies indicate acid reflux. Little ones are likely to arch their backs to stretch and avoid more discomfort. Sometimes this may also mean that the baby is feeling lost and still trying to figure out their movements. 

When you observe this during a feed, pause and comfort them for a while. Rubbing their backs can be soothing and eases their discomfort. Offering them your finger to hold, swaddling, and helping them to a curled position can calm your little one.

“I’m hungry”   

Before crying out of frustration, a hungry baby gives a lot of subtle cues. Sucking their fists, the baby tries to enact feeding when they are hungry. They also resort to latching on, commonly known as rooting. Tongue thrusts are another common cue given by babies when they are feeling hungry. 

Recognizing these early signs will help you feed your baby before they get irritated. They will be well satiated, settle down well, and sleep peacefully too.

“It's overwhelming for me”

Sometimes a new environment and a lot of activity can overwhelm your baby. When your baby averts their eyes and closes them or starts squirming, all they want is a break. These are clear disengaging signals that you shouldn't ignore. 

In case your baby gives you these signals, slow down or stop altogether. The baby has now had enough activity so it's time to wind down and relax. 

“I’m sleepy” 

A tired baby is more likely to become grumpy and is difficult to put to sleep. When you notice them becoming quiet or losing interest in toys, it's time for them to take a nap. Tightly clenching their fists or yawning and knotting their eyebrows are also cues that they are ready to sleep.

Ignoring these can cause stress to your little one, making it harder to settle them down. Rock them gently or pat them slowly so that they quickly fall asleep. If already distressed and cranky you can sing to them or try swaddling. This calms them down.

“I want to poop”  

A baby's poop pattern can be quite erratic. This can be quite difficult to figure out at first but look closely, some tell-tale signs include thoughtful expressions, pursed lips, furrowed brows, and strained grunting sounds.

Seating the baby upright eases their motion and makes toilet training easier in the later years.

“It's play time”

For short periods of time, babies also want to interact and play with you. With a smiling and calm face, they open their bright eyes wide and hold out their arms to you.

Filled with smiles and baby babble, this is one of the best times to bond with your baby. Your response will help your baby feel safe and gladly interact with the world outside. 

Although these are typical baby cues, every baby is unique and will develop their own ways to talk to you. Throughout the journey of parenting, you will notice many cues of engagement as well as disengagement. This may be quite unclear at times. But when you spend a lot of time with your baby, you soon become attuned to their needs and respond the way they want you to.