How do babies communicate without words? How do they develop and learn? These are all important questions that researchers are still trying to answer.
One thing is for sure, though: babies communicate a lot without words! Whether it’s using body language or facial expressions, babies can enhance their language development in a lot of ways.
This article will explore some of the ways that babies communicate with their parents and caregivers.
Why Is Communication Without Words Important for Babies’ Speech Development?
Babies’ first words are usually “mama” or “dada,” but they start communicating long before they can say these words.
In fact, communication without words is an important part of babies’ speech development. When babies communicate without words, they practice using their vocal cords and mouth muscles.
This helps them develop the muscles and coordination they need for speaking. This, in turn, helps enhance language development and communication skills through things like body language, which adults also use in spoken language.
Developing muscles and coordination isn’t the only reason why communication without words is important for babies’ speech development. Babies also learn to communicate by watching and listening to the people around them.
When they see their parents or caregivers communicating without words, they learn that communication doesn’t always have to involve words. This is an important lesson that will help them develop communication skills later in life.
How Do Babies Communicate Without Words?
Babies communicate without words in many different ways. Here are some of the most common ways babies communicate without words:
Crying is one of the most basic ways babies communicate. When a baby cries, it can mean that they are hungry, tired, uncomfortable, or in pain. It can also mean that they want attention. You must also consider your baby’s facial expression when crying. Nonverbal communication skills are an important aspect of early communication in babies.
Smiling is another way babies communicate without words. A smile can mean they are happy, content, or amused. It can also be a way of showing affection. Babies respond appropriately to different stimulations, which are evident in their facial expressions and even eye contact.
3. Facial Expressions
Another way babies communicate without words is through their facial expressions. Babies will often make different faces to show how they are feeling.
For example, a baby may furrow their brows when they are concentrating or confused. Or, they may stick out their tongue when they are thinking hard about something. Child development is enhanced by the way that babies express feelings.
4. Body Language
Body language is another way babies communicate without words. Babies will often use their bodies to express how they are feeling. For example, a baby may extend their arms if they want to be picked up or held.
Or, they may kick their legs when they are excited. You might even be surprised that babies begin to recognize personal space at an early age, which they manifest through nonverbal communication.
Babbling is another way babies communicate without words. When babies babble, they make sounds with their mouth that don’t have any meaning. Babbling is a way for babies to practice using their mouths to make sounds. It is also a way for them to experiment with different sounds.
Cooing is another way babies communicate without words. When a baby coos, they make soft, vowel-like sounds. Cooing is a way for babies to practice using their vocal cords. It is also a way for them to show affection.
Gestures are another way babies communicate without words. Babies will often use gestures to ask for things or show how they feel. For example, a baby may raise their arms to be picked up or want to be held. Or, they may wave goodbye when they are leaving.
As you can see, there are many different ways babies communicate without words. These are just some of the most common ways. If you pay attention, you will probably notice your baby communicating in ways not mentioned above.
Bonding with your baby will help you understand them more easily. After all, familiarity with your baby’s cry can help you understand that they need to be fed or burped and not just want to be held.
If your baby is trying out a new sound such as babbling, it may take you a little longer to figure out what they want. With time and patience, you will be able to understand your baby’s communication style and bond with your baby in a way that is special and unique to the two of you.
Crying As A Way Of Communicating For Babies
During the first four months of a baby’s life, crying is the only way they communicate. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to your baby’s cries. Each cry is unique and can tell you a lot about what your baby needs.
Below are the seven types of baby cries and what each of them means:
1. Calling Cry
Babies are born with a natural instinct to cry when they need their parent’s attention. This is known as the calling cry, usually lasting for 5–6 seconds, followed by a 20-second pause.
If your baby cries like this, it means they have been alone for a while and need your help. The best way to respond is to pick them up and cuddle them close. This will let them know that you are there for them and help calm them down.
If you ignore their calls, they will eventually stop crying and may become withdrawn or unresponsive. So don’t hesitate to pick up your baby when they cry—it could be the key to building a strong bond with them.
2. Hunger Cry
Hunger cries are similar to calling cries, but the main difference is that babies get hysterical more quickly when they’re hungry. When a baby is hunger-crying, they’ll often start rotating their head and making smacking sounds with their mouth.
Hunger cries tend to be louder and longer than calling cries and usually happen at least once an hour. If you think your baby is hunger-crying, try offering them a small amount of food or milk. If they’re still crying after eating or drinking, they’re likely just tired or bored.
3. Pain Cry
A pain cry is a flat and constant cry that usually means the baby is in pain. Small, hysterical outbursts mean the pain is increasing, and you should call the doctor as soon as possible.
If the baby is crying very loudly, this usually means that they are in a lot of pain, and you should take them to the hospital immediately. Paying attention to the sound of your baby’s cry can help you determine how serious their condition might be and whether you need medical help.
4. Physiological Cry
A physiological cry is characterized by a high-pitched whine or squeak. This type of cry usually indicates that the baby is experiencing some discomfort due to gas, poop, or pee. So, if you hear your baby crying with a high-pitched whine or squeak, it’s likely that they are trying to tell you that they need to be changed or burped.
Just remember, a physiological cry is usually nothing to worry about and can be easily remedied. You just have to figure out what your baby is trying to tell you.
5. Sleep Cry
Some babies cry for extended periods, often at night, and it can be difficult for parents to know what to do. In some cases, the baby may just be tired and need help falling asleep.
The sleep cry sounds like a baby is offended, accompanied by smooth whining with lots of yawning and rubbing of eyes and ears. If you think your baby is tired, try rocking them gently, singing a lullaby, or placing them in their crib.
If they continue to cry, check if they’re wet or have dirty diapers. If so, change them immediately. Sometimes babies will also cry if they’re hungry, so try offering them a small amount of formula or breast milk.
Comfort them until they finally drift off to sleep. If your baby is still crying after trying all these things, it’s important to consult your pediatrician to rule out any other possible causes.
6. Discomfort Cry
A baby’s discomfort cry is usually pretty easy to distinguish from their other cries. It will sound more irritated and come with fidgeting, flailing arms and legs, and arching of babies’ backs. This is usually a sign that it’s time to check their diaper or change their clothes.
If you’re not sure whether the cry is caused by discomfort or something else, try checking their diaper first. If it’s dry, then it’s probably something else entirely. Otherwise, go ahead and change them and see if that helps. Either way, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and check things out rather than just ignore their cry.
7. Bored Cry
A baby’s bored cry is extremely common; it means your baby is simply frustrated or bored. To calm a bored baby, try to walk them outdoors because a simple environment change is needed.
If the crying persists, you can try gently bouncing your baby while holding them close to your body. You can also try singing or talking to your baby in a soft, calming voice.
In some cases, babies may need more stimulation than what you can provide at home, and it may be necessary to take them to a place where they can see other people and activities.
However, if your baby is fussy or seems uncomfortable, it’s important to listen to their cues and not push them too hard. With a little patience and trial and error, you’ll quickly learn what soothes your baby and helps them to stop crying.
What Are the Other Sounds That Babies Make, and What Do They Mean?
Babies can be a bit creative about the different sounds they make when trying to communicate something. Dr. Priscilla Dunstan found that babies only start to actively make communication sounds after four months. Before that, sounds are just a primary reflex whose meaning parents need to figure out.
Below are the common sounds babies make and what they mean:
“Neh” is the sound that babies make when they are hungry. Babies are born with a natural reflex to suck, which is triggered when the tongue pushes up against the roof of the mouth. This produces the “neh” sound.
This reflex is essential for survival, as it helps babies to feed and get the nutrients they need to grow and develop. However, this reflex can also be a source of frustration for parents, as it can lead to constant crying and fussiness.
There are a few things that parents can do to help soothe their baby’s hunger and reduce the amount of crying. One option is to give them a pacifier, which can help to fulfill their need to suck without having to feed them.
Another option is to try feeding them smaller meals more often, which can help keep their hunger under control. Whatever approach you take, ensure your baby gets enough food and nutrients to support their growth and development.
Babies make the “eh” sound when they are about to burp. As any parent knows, babies are prone to excess gas. This is because they are constantly taking in air while nursing or bottle-feeding.
Their digestive system is also not yet fully developed, which can lead to abdominal bloating. As a result, many babies experience frequent burping. While this may be annoying for parents, it is actually quite beneficial for the baby.
Burping helps to release excess air from the stomach, preventing a painful and bloated feeling. It also helps to promote healthy digestion and prevent spit-up. So next time your little one starts to burp, be sure to offer a burping cloth and some words of encouragement. After all, it’s good for their health.
Babies make the “owh” sound when they are sleepy. When a baby feels sleepy, they will often start to yawn. This is because yawning helps to increase the oxygen levels in the blood. Babies often fold their lips before yawning, creating the “owh” sound.
Many newborns are not comfortable in their first few weeks outside the womb. They may cry and fuss a lot and often have trouble sleeping. This is perfectly normal, and most babies will settle down after a few weeks.
However, some babies may also move their hands and feet constantly, or jerk them abruptly. This is called primitive reflex activity, which is completely normal during the first few months of life.
However, if this activity continues beyond three or four months, it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition. If you are concerned about your baby’s health, please consult your pediatrician. Babies make the “heh” sound when they are feeling uncomfortable.
Any parent who has ever had a colicky baby is intimately familiar with the sound of “eairh.” This sound, produced when a baby stretches its belly and exhales, is often the first sign that something is wrong.
In most cases, it indicates that the baby has a sore tummy. However, it can also signify other problems, such as gas or constipation.
It is important to pay attention to other signs of distress, especially if your baby is making this sound. If the “eairh” sound is accompanied by crying, fussiness, or arching of the back, it is likely that your baby is in discomfort, and you should seek medical advice.
However, if the “eairh” sound is accompanied by cooing and smiling, your baby is probably just enjoying the sensation of stretching its stomach muscles.
Different Body Movements and What They Mean
Aside from communicating using sounds, babies can also communicate using body movements. Here are the different body movements babies make as a form of communication:
1. Arching Their Backs
It’s not uncommon for babies under two months old to arch their backs frequently. This is often a response to pain, such as from colic. However, there are some exceptions. For example, if a baby arches their back while eating, it’s a sign of reflux.
On the other hand, if a baby arches its back after eating, it means they are full. Babies more than two months old who do this are simply tired or in a bad mood. Consult your pediatrician if you’re concerned about your baby’s back arching.
2. Rotating Their Heads
It’s well-known that babies have a lot of needs. They need to be fed, changed, burped, and rocked to sleep. But did you know that babies also have a way of calming themselves down?
It’s called the rotating head reflex, which manifests when babies are about to sleep or hang out with people they don’t know yet.
If you gently rub their back and they rotate their head back and forth, they’ll instantly relax. This reflex is thought to be a vestige of their time in the womb, when they were constantly surrounded by noise and movement.
So if you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed by a crying baby, just remember that they have a built-in way of calming themselves down.
3. Grabbing Their Ears
When a baby is born, they have a lot of new sensations to explore. One of the ways they do this is by grabbing and pulling on their earlobes. However, it’s important to remember that this is perfectly normal behavior and part of the process of babies discovering their bodies.
If your baby is pulling on their ears and crying, it’s a good idea to take them to the doctor to rule out any ear infections. However, in most cases, this is simply a harmless phase that all babies go through.
4. Clenching Their Fists
A baby’s fists can give you a pretty good indication of how hungry they are. If their fists are relaxed and open, they’re probably not too interested in food at the moment and are still full.
However, if their fists are super clenched, that means they’re likely very hungry and could use some baby food asap.
Between those two extremes, a clenched fist usually means your baby is starting to get hungry but isn’t quite ready for food yet. So, if you see your little one clenching their fists, it’s a good idea to start paying attention to their hunger cues and see if they’re ready for a meal.
5. Lifting Their Legs
When a baby is born, their digestive system is still developing, and they may experience some discomfort like colic. One way that babies try to ease the pain is by lifting their legs up and down. This movement helps to massage their tummy and stimulates the digestive process.
Tummy rubs can also be helpful in relieving colic or tummy pain. Gently massaging the tummy in a clockwise direction can help soothe the muscles and reduce discomfort.
However, if your baby is still crying after trying these methods, it is best to consult a doctor to rule out any other underlying health issues.
6. Jerking Their Arms
Babies jerk their arms for various reasons, the most common being the startle reflex. This reflex is triggered by loud noises, bright lights, and sudden movements, and it causes the baby’s body to stiffen and its arms to jerk. While this reflex is normal and harmless, it can be alarming for parents to see.
There are a few things that you can do to help reduce the startle reflex in your baby. Try to keep noise levels low during naps and at night, and dim the lights when possible.
You can also try swaddling your baby, which can help to provide a sense of security and keep them from flailing their arms. If the startle reflex is persistently bothering your baby, talk to your pediatrician about possible solutions.
Babies are amazing creatures, and they have a lot of ways to communicate without using words. By understanding some of the common gestures babies make, you can better interpret their needs and help provide them with the care they need.
So next time your little one tries to tell you something, pay attention to their body language and see what they’re trying to say.
Parents should communicate with their babies as much as possible even if their babies cannot fully understand them yet. This will help guarantee that once their babies start to talk, they will be able to hold conversations.
Furthermore, it is essential for parents to listen to their babies. Listening helps build the foundation for parents to understand what their babies are communicating.