Babies can’t communicate verbally past the odd gurgle or “coo”. Instead, they rely heavily on non-verbal signals to engage with those around them.
Understanding baby cues and baby body language is important for parents and care providers.
When your baby is tired
Sometimes these symptoms are pretty obvious but at other times, rather less so.
Watch out for:
- turning their head or body away from you, perhaps also staring into space;
- looking fractious;
- showing a lack of interest in their toys;
- becoming ‘grisly’ and irritable;
- rubbing their eyes;
- their body movements becoming less coordinated;
- sucking their fingers.
Some babies will become even more inclined to moan when you put them down for a nap but that’s likely to only last a minute or two, then they’ll be off.
Your baby is demanding to be fed!
The clues here are usually pretty clear too!
- sucking noises;
- turning automatically towards your breast. This may be less commonly seen if the care provider is male, as research has shown that babies can smell their mother’s milk and breast;
- crying for no other obvious reason.
It’s worth matching these signs up to the typical indications for infant feeding frequencies.
I want to play
The signs here are sometimes more subtle but they’re still recognisable:
- lots of smiles and eye-to-eye contact from your baby;
- reaching out towards you or things you’re holding;
- eyes that are bright, focused and widely open;
- depending upon the baby’s age, they may start making lots of baby-speak noises and banging things to try and get your attention.
Of course, these signs will also materialise at the worst possible moment when you’re busily engaged in something else!
Time for a change of game
Just like adults, babies can get bored. They can also find something not to their liking.
They’ll signal that and by implication, ask you to do something to change the game or pastime.
The signs are:
- kicking/pushing their arms and legs forward;
- turning away from you and not making eye contact;
- getting a little ill-tempered.
Time for a change of nappy
This is a trickier one to describe because the symptoms can vary a lot.
Some babies seem blissfully unaware of their ‘status’ whilst others can be prima-donnas and demand action fast. The position has also changed over recent decades with better designed and higher-tech nappy materials that are more comfortable for the baby and also better at disguising odours from parents.
Generally speaking, look out for:
- strained red faces and grunting noises – usually indicating something is in motion;
- baffled expressions directed towards their lower regions.
These usually originate from the baby’s discomfort and them not understanding why they’re suddenly cold and wet.
A quick check will usually confirm the worst!