Reading your baby's signs & mind
Maybe its the middle of the night when babys crying up a storm, and you cant figure out what the little guy wants for the life of you. Or maybe hes bouncing along happily in his ExerSaucer when your curiosity strikes: Whats going on in that little noggin? According to new research, quite a lot.
UNDERSTANDING GESTURES & EXPRESSIONS
Even when babies are first born, they already know a few things about people, language, and their new world, according to Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkley, and author of The Philosphical Baby: What Childrens Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love and the Meaning of Life. At first glance, babies may not seem to do much, she says. They dont talk, which is usually how we find out what someone thinks but looking at what they do, where they look, what interests or bores them can tell you a lot. Thats why some easily-mistaken expressions and gestures may not be hard to decode after all as long as you can spot the signs.
The look: Scrunched-up face, accompanied by grunting noises
What it means: Hes probably uncomfortable, especially if hes crying. The likely culprit? Gas. Try rubbing his belly gently to relieve it a bit. (Note: A scrunched face without the crying, plus some widening of the eyes, may just be babys poop face. Youll get to know that look pretty well if you havent already.) Wait a bit for it to pass. If it doesnt, call your doc.
The look: An intense, investigative stare at an object or in one general direction
What it means: Baby gets fascinated pretty easily and is particularly intrigued by things around him. They track the way objects around them move and are especially interested in edges and contrasts, Gopnik says. Another point of fascination? Watching an object or person disappear. Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget notably claimed babies dont understand that an object can still exist once its out of view, but recent studies have thrown this theory out the window. Thats why baby will continue to stare after mom has walked out the door: Hes looking for her to return.
The look: Furrowed brows and a pouty lip
What it means: Hes most likely been overstimulated and on the brink of a meltdown. Place him in a swing for some rhythmic movement to chill him out and back away slowly. He needs some alone time and the comfort of his swing will probably do the trick.
The look: A series of unexplainable crying, yelling or even object-throwing What it means: If this behavior is accompanied by some ploys for your attention, then guess what? Thats what it is. Babys bored (hey, it happens) and probably wants some one-on-one time. Entertain him with a fun toy or sing a song he loves.
DECODING CRIES & SOUNDS
Babys gestures and expressions arent the only things newbie moms and dads can look to when trying to figure out what baby wants. According to new theories, babys cries may offer some big clues too. And while theres been a lot of controversy in recent years over whether or not a systematic baby language really does exist, as Australian mom (and creator of The Dunstan Baby Language) Priscilla Dunstan claims, these theories are not being completely ruled out by docs and researchers. If Dunstans claims are true, baby makes five distinct sounds during that crucial newborn phase:
The sound: Eh
What it means: I have to burp (make that an Eairh and that means lower gas)
The sound: Owh
What it means: Im sleepy
The sound: Neh
What it means: Im hungry
The sound: Heh
What it means: Im uncomfortable
Just how legitimate are these claims? According to Gopnik, there isnt any scientific evidence out there to make them entirely official yet; but there is definitely evidence to suggest adults can recognize the difference between, for example, cries of hunger and of pain. Dr. Robert Titzer, an infant researcher and creator of the language development series Your Baby Can Read! agrees, adding that: Its better to think of the Dunstan Baby Language system as a set of fairly universal words for babies, instead of thinking of it as a language where words are combined and used with more intention to communicate.
As for babys (sometimes maddening) cries, they of course differ slightly with every baby but there are definitely some similarities all tots share. So the next time youre pulling your hair out trying to decode babys cry, consult this list:
The cry: Rhythmic and repetitive
What it means: Babys probably hungry especially if hes rooting around for moms breast or sucking on his fingers.
The cry: A slow build-up of crying over several minutes
What it means: Its time for a nap your little guys tuckered out.
The cry: Periodic soft whimpers
What it means: If this carries on for a while, babys not feeling so good. It may be time to visit the doc.
The cry: Powerful screams
What it means: If babys wailing at the top of his lungs for any prolonged period, its time to consult your doc. It could be a variety of things, but the likely culprit? The dreaded colic.
The cry: Whiny and irritated
What it means: Your tots fussing is probably because hes been overstimulated and getting stressed.
For pregnancy and parenting advice, tools, photos, and more, visit TheBump.com
© 2013, TheBump.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less