New­born’s body lan­guage

What is she try­ing to tell me?

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

YAWN­ING

New­borns do this a lot but they’re not bored or tired – they just need to get more oxy­gen into their lungs. You may also no­tice your baby sneez­ing quite a bit. She does this to clear her nasal pas­sages – not be­cause she’s get­ting sick.

SUCK­ING ON HER FIN­GERS

If it’s not around feed­ing time, young ba­bies suck on their fin­gers or fists as a way to self-soothe. When your lit­tle one sucks her fin­gers it’s her way of say­ing, “I’m lonely and miss­ing be­ing cud­dled and car­ried around.” Self-sooth­ing is ac­tu­ally an im­por­tant skill needed for sleep. You can read more about this on page 57.

CRY­ING

Ba­bies don’t cry to be naughty! Cry­ing is an im­por­tant com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool for ba­bies and you’ll soon learn to in­ter­pret one of the seven types of cry: pain, dis­com­fort, hunger, lone­li­ness, over­stim­u­la­tion, bore­dom or frus­tra­tion.

SMILE

Smil­ing is unique to hu­mans and comes nat­u­rally when ba­bies recog­nise a fa­mil­iar face. Around four months your baby is learn­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence emo­tion, and a smile on her face means that she’s happy. Smil­ing also brings a dou­ble

TEARS ALSO CON­TAIN THE EX­CESS OF STRESS CHEM­I­CALS SO IT’S NA­TURE’S WAY OF HELP­ING TO CALM YOUR BABY

re­ward when it’s re­turned, as smil­ing is a baby’s first les­son in so­cial­is­ing.

PULLING A TONGUE

When tiny ba­bies stick out their tongues they’re say­ing, “I’ve had enough – no more milk please,” and then push the nip­ple out of their mouth. They do the same when eat­ing solids for the first time – es­pe­cially if they’re younger than six months or they don’t like the taste. But now, in­stead of in­di­cat­ing they’ve had enough food, they’re do­ing this be­cause of the new ex­pe­ri­ence solids brings. Older ba­bies are strong enough to turn their heads away when say­ing “no”!

Tod­dlers may stick their tongues out when they are en­grossed in a cer­tain ac­tiv­ity or play. Tongue-pulling is also used as a so­cial re­jec­tion at this age.

KICK­ING HER LEGS

Ba­bies kick their blan­kets off when they’re too hot. Un­for­tu­nately ba­bies can’t pull their blan­kets back up again – this is when cry­ing comes in use­ful.

Ba­bies also kick for the fun of kick­ing, es­pe­cially in the bath. She’s say­ing, “This is fun; I want to do it some more!” and it’s good ex­er­cise, even though she splashes ev­ery­thing in sight. Older ba­bies en­joy kick­ing against the re­sis­tance of a will­ing lap. This teaches them to use their legs and to stand. Don’t worry, your baby won’t get bandy­legged from do­ing this. It also helps to strengthen her hips, knees and an­kles. When she’s tired, your baby will sim­ply sit down again.

SCRUNCHING HER KNEES

Par­ents of­ten in­ter­pret a baby scrunching her knees up to­ward her chest as tummy cramps. But when ba­bies cry, they cry with their whole body, so it’s im­por­tant to in­ter­pret the cry and not the ac­tion. Ba­bies can com­fort­ably pull their knees up to their chests back into the foetal po­si­tion six months after birth.

CLENCHED FISTS

Your baby is not an­gry when she clenches her fists. This re­flex is said to be a rem­nant of our an­ces­try when ba­bies clung to their mother’s fur! New­borns can cling to a rope but their heavy body will soon make them lose their grip.

ARCHING HER BACK

Younger ba­bies tell you they want to be left alone when they stiffen in your arms – es­pe­cially if you hold them for too long. When older ba­bies arch their backs, it’s a sign of ut­ter frus­tra­tion. Your baby is show­ing you that she does not want to do what you are try­ing to make her do, es­pe­cially when it comes to eat­ing. This usu­ally hap­pens to­wards the end of her first year and typ­i­cally in the su­per­mar­ket trol­ley or high chair.

GRAB­BING HER EARS

Very young ba­bies who still have a strong grasp­ing re­flex can ran­domly grab their ears and pull them. Older ba­bies who are ill and mis­er­able may pull on sore ears, show­ing mom where it’s hurt­ing.

RUB­BING HER EYES

Just as you do, your baby rubs her eyes when she’s tired. This gives the lit­tle glands just above the eyes the chance to lu­bri­cate the sur­face of the eye. If eye-rub­bing is caused by dirt, a nat­u­ral bac­te­ri­cide in tears helps to pre­vent an in­fec­tion. Tears also con­tain the ex­cess of stress chem­i­cals so its na­ture’s way of help­ing to calm your baby – es­pe­cially when you re­spond with your com­fort­ing arms. This also re­in­forces trust.

BANG­ING HER HEAD

Move­ment and rock­ing is an essential part of com­fort­ing that moth­ers do nat­u­rally. Pro­vid­ing that a baby’s needs are met, she is pro­grammed to self-soothe by suck­ing. But when a baby’s needs are not met, she may be­come in­se­cure and re­sort to rock­ing her­self. A trou­bled baby may lead to head bang­ing in tod­dlers or older chil­dren – body lan­guage that should not be taken lightly. YB

Your baby’s try­ing to tell you some­thing with ev­ery lit­tle ac­tion, says Sr Burgie Ire­land

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