Newborn’s body language
What is she trying to tell me?
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.
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.
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.
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