Communicating with Your Baby - Strategies and Tips for Understanding What Your Baby Needs When They Can't Talk
By Rivka Hodgkinson
Holding your little bundle of joy for the first time can bring a rush of so many different emotions. You are holding a little person that you are now totally responsible for feeding, changing, and caring for and loving. But they can’t even tell you what they are thinking.
When we had our daughter, I asked my husband what the hardest part of having a new baby was, and he responded without even having to think about it - figuring out what she needs and wants! Learning how to communicate with your baby is part art, part science. As the oldest of 11 brothers and sisters, mom to 4, and aunt to 11 nieces and nephews (so far!), I have learned a few tricks over the years. Don’t worry, you can get through this, and hopefully, these tips and strategies will make it a little easier.
Talk to Your Baby
The first step in communicating with your baby is for you to communicate. Some parents feel like it is silly to talk to your newborn because they can’t understand what you are saying yet. But talking to them is how they learn. It is wonderful for their brain development, bonding, and developing their own language skills.
And even though they may not understand the words yet, they can already read your emotional cues. When you are calm, it will help to calm them down. When you are stressed, you pass that along too.
Tell your baby what you are about to do before you do it, explain what is happening throughout the day. This includes diapering time: explaining the steps as you do it, lets them know what to expect next. Ask them questions about how they are feeling and give some suggestions. “Are you hungry?” or “Are you a tired baby?” They will begin to recognize certain words, especially if you are consistent in the words you use, and be able to respond with facial cues and body language before they can use words.
Watch Your Baby’s Body Language
Which brings us to the next communication strategy - watch their body language. Studies have shown that even in adult communication anywhere from 55% to 93% of communication actually happens nonverbally through body language and tone of voice. Which is great news for communicating with your non-verbal infant. They are still sending you lots of messages!
When your baby is calm and happy her body will be relaxed, but not limp or unresponsive. If you feel or see your baby relaxing her body when you sing or move in a certain way it is a good indicator that they want more of that.
A baby can give you good information by where they look as well. If you are trying to show them something and they look away, especially if they also start to fuss, they are telling you that they are overstimulated. It is a good time for a quiet space and maybe a nap.
Likewise, even a very small baby will try to move toward the things they want (like their milk), or away from the things they don’t want. Don’t assume that their motions are all random, even when they are uncoordinated.
A stiff or rigid posture can indicate that he is uncomfortable. This could be from a gas bubble, an uncomfortable position, a wet diaper, or hunger. Start trying things to see what relieves the stress.
Learn Your Baby’s Different Cries
Even without words, your baby is using her voice to tell you what she needs. As you get to know your baby, these different cries will become more obvious to you.
Experiment with Your Baby!
Your relationship with your child is just that, a relationship. It will take time to get to know each other. Just like any other relationship, it will be important to make sure that you are spending quality time together, paying attention to your baby, and working to connect. This gets easier every day and gets much more fun when they start rewarding you with smiles and giggles as they get bigger.
Like any other person, they have likes and dislikes.
You won’t know what your baby likes and doesn’t like until you try it. Treat it like a game rather than a chore and it will be easier for you as the parent. Try different types of music, different holding positions, dancing, deep knee bends, different ways of burping him. Ask other parents what their babies like to get ideas. Sometimes the silliest thing can make a world of difference. For example, when we discovered she liked the sound of the water in the shower it gave my husband a great tool to calm her down when she was tired. And also meant that it was easier for me to get a regular shower - always a challenge for new moms! She didn’t like the baby swing, but we found she loved a vibrating bouncy chair.
Some of these things will change as your baby grows and develops. Our daughter didn’t like her swing when she was born. But now that she is old enough to grab the toys that hang above it, she enjoys it for short periods of time. Don’t be afraid to try things again a couple of weeks later even if your son or daughter rejected it the first time around.
What Are Your Tips?
What are your tips and tricks for communicating with your baby? Did something work for one child and not for another? What is the most unusual like or dislike your baby has? We would love to hear in the comments below!
Many moms experience mood swings and crying period after childbirth. For some moms the symptoms fade quickly and are known as the baby blues. For others, symptoms are more severe and are longer-lasting, and may be postpartum depression. If you are asking "Is this Normal?" about feelings you or another mom are experiencing we are here to help!
There are several things that help aid anyone recovering from childbirth. You should make healthy lifestyle choices (avoid alcohol which is a depressant), set realistic expectations, make time for yourself and avoid isolation. But what if you are doing all these things and still just don't feel like yourself?
How to tell the Difference Between Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
Since it is a medical condition, a positive attitude or just trying harder to be happy can't "fix" depression.
How can you tell the difference between the blues and depression? The signs or symptoms vary depending on the type of depression and most people experience a combination of them.
Baby blues -70-80% of moms have these symptoms: Mood swings, anxiety, sadness, fear, irritability, crying, decreased concentration, and trouble sleeping. Also included are general feelings of being weak, overwhelmed, overtired and alone.
Postpartum depression: Loss of appetite, insomnia, intense irritability/anger, overwhelming fatigue (no energy or motivation), lack of joy in life, feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy, severe mood swings, difficulty bonding with your baby, withdrawal from family and friends, and thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. These symptoms can occur any time within the first 3 months after delivery.
What To Do If You Are Struggling
If you think you may have postpartum depression, treatment can help you manage your symptoms and get back to enjoying life and your baby again. We learned that left untreated, postpartum depression may last for a year or more. If you have depression symptoms and they are getting worse, don't fade after two weeks or make it hard for you to take care of your baby or yourself, please seek help from your doctor.
Only a medical professional can determine if what you are experiencing is postpartum depression and help you find a treatment plan.
What types of activities do you do that help you bond with and observe your newborn? Some parents try to change a diaper as fast as possible and get it over with. If you look at diapering as a time to bond and have special interactions you will find much more joy in it for you and your baby.
The biggest tip we can give for fun diaper time as your child gets older (not for newborns) is to keep special toys that your child only plays with while you diaper. Our son didn’t squirm to get away or turn over as long as he had a toy he was interested in! Another tip when they are older is to let them pick a toy to play with while you change their diaper. Kids don’t want to stop playing, so you don’t have to make them quit just for diaper time.
Diapering Can Be Fun
Diapering is an opportunity to watch your baby and learn more about their needs. Your newborn's goals are to feel love, comfort and warmth. As you diaper, take time to observe his/her new movements, range of motion, and facial gestures.
As you lay the baby down (on changing pad or table) notice if they are comfortable or if they need comforting. Take time to comfort any baby that is insecure, fearful or crying.
This may include bending over them to cuddle or pat them while they are laying on the table, chatting, looking into their eyes and soothing them. Once they are calm, make sounds and facial expressions that are cheerful or fun then proceed. If at any time, your newborn resumes crying, take time to sooth them.
We suggest placing a clean diaper over your baby's private parts while you clean them, to protect them and you from stray urine flow during a change. Have you seen that commercial where the man is changing the baby on a bed and the baby pees on the ceiling? This may not happen, but while exposing your baby to the air and cleaning their bottom they are likely to urinate or defecate so be prepared!
Tips to Connect with Your Baby
Speaking of cleaning, there's nothing like a cold wet wipe to make a baby cry. You can invest in a wipe warmer, or run your diaper wipe under warm water prior to diapering (or even better, warm up a reusable wash cloth).
After your baby is cleaned we suggest engaging in some naked play time, giving your baby's bottom time to air dry. This is your opportunity to touch, smell and look at every aspect of your baby’s body and face. Since your baby is already relaxed, this is an ideal time to move their body and teach them new movements. Use gentle slow movements and never force a movement your baby resists.
We often move our grandson to a clean cushy blanket on the floor. If he happens to wet, we can easily toss the blanket in the wash; in the meantime he can play naked and air dry his bottom. You’ll find as your child grows older that they will make movements and sounds while they are naked, that they don’t while they are clothed. Babies exhibit uninhibited joy!
In the winter: You may need to warm up the area where you change diapers (with a space heater) for your baby to feel warm. Inspect the area where you are going to lay the baby while changing. Especially in the winter, make sure you are changing the diaper in a place where there are no drafts or cold air. When babies are first disrobed, they can become uncomfortable due to the temperature change and absence of clothes.
After your baby is a few months old: The Baby Whisper suggests that the person changing the diaper describe what they are going to do to prepare your baby for the movements you need them to make.
For instance, before you take the diaper off say " I'm going to lift your legs up", then lift their legs. When we want our grandson to relax so we can clean every wrinkle between his legs, we say “relax” slowly, while we gently push his legs apart.
In the same manner you can show them the clean diaper and say "Let's get your clean diaper on, let’s lift your legs up". If you use diaper cream, you can say "I'm going to put that nice cream on". Repeating the same phrase each time lets your baby know what to expect. Eventually, they will lift up their legs for you!
What About You?
What are your best tips for connecting with your baby? Do you use diaper time as an opportunity to connect?
You are totally into cloth diapers. But what happens when you and your partner aren't both as excited? What can you do when you both are not on the same page about the cleaner, greener healthier diaper solution for your family?
This is your first opportunity as parents to make a big difference for your baby's health and comfort along with the health of the planet your child lives on and will raise their children on. It is also a great chance to start working on communicating as a parent. Don't you think it's worth discussing your choice? It is important not to be angry or accusatory, use our talking points to listen to each other's perspectives carefully and have a discussion.
Discuss the Benefits
You know all the reasons why you love cloth diapers but have you taken the time to discuss them to your partner?
Your Baby’s Health
Discussing the benefits to your baby of using a natural fiber diaper instead of plastics can increase awareness of what cloth has to offer. Many people are unaware that using disposables expose your baby to potential hazards (see website article for full details).
Think about what you would like wearing next to your skin for 2-1/2 years; cloth or a plastic?
Faster Potty Training
Did you know that our experience is that children in cloth diapers potty train faster? That might be enough to get your partner excited about it all by itself!
After a couple of years every parent gets tired of diaper changing, don't you want a way for your child to learn faster? On our service, when your child is ready (see our Potty Training guide), we supply training pants along with diapers as part of your service.
Better for Our Earth
In addition to considering your baby's health, think about using a diaper method that follows the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle philosophy! Disposables contribute 84 million lbs of FECAL matter into landfills per year! Not only is that gross, according to the World Health Organization it is illegal. This contributes to contaminated ground water.
Learning more may be enough to help others get on board with a cloth diapering choice.
Dealing with Objections
Another important part of the conversation is dealing with objections your partner may have. Take the time to really listen to what their objections are. Here are some of the common ones.
It is too messy.
Cleaning up poop and pee can be a messy job, but that's true for any kind of diaper.
Simply drop the soiled diaper in the pail and are done with it, just like you would with a disposable (no rinsing, no soaking). Instead of being in a hurry to get the job done, use diapering time to bond and play with your baby. Give soft kisses all over their tummy, kiss those sweet toes, exercise those little legs! Diapering time can be a time of extreme closeness.
Cloth diapers are expensive.
You can shop sales and use coupons on disposable diapers. With our service you can:
Have you noticed disposables are more expensive as your baby gets older? With our Potty Training Guarantee you get free diapers and/or training pants after 2-1/2 years (130 weeks) of paid service. The bottom line is - OVERALL costs are less with our diaper service, AND you are confident you are giving your baby's health the best option with a cloth diaper!
Too difficult to handle 2 pieces instead of one
Families tell us their children over 8 years old can diaper their baby so we are confident others can too! Just practice with the other person a few times and they will get the hang of it.
Making It Work
Connect With Others That Use Cloth
Learning something new is often scary; cloth diapering is no exception! If your partner seems hesitant even after logically understanding all the benefits, perhaps they just need to get more comfortable with the process. DyDee Baby has created videos to show you how in just a few minutes!
No one likes to be all alone, so the tipping point for your partner may just be helping them realize that there are many other families using cloth diapers also. Our Facebook page is a great place to share, ask for advice, and connect with other cloth diaper families. Be on the lookout for friends who use cloth diapers. Many families that are making healthy life choices or that regard themselves as Natural Parenting couples use cloth diapers.
In addition, you can also call or email the office any time with questions about diaper fit or concerns. Our staff used cotton diapers on their own babies and they have over 20 yrs of experience dealing with all sorts of issues that can come up; we are cloth diapering experts that can help you every step of the way!
Dividing the Work
If your partner really doesn't want to use cloth, you may talk about dividing the work in other ways. Maybe you handle most of the diapering, and they help in other ways with parenting or around the house. There is no right or wrong way to parent together. The most important is that both of you share your needs and feelings, and that you work to make the best decisions for your child.
Do you need more items to talk about? Here are some great resources to refer to!
Have You Dealt with This?
Have you and your partner worked through this together! We would love to hear your tips and strategies. Share in the comments below!
You know all those online quizzes about being a parent? And articles about "you might be if?" We decided to talk about what makes moms and dads who choose cloth diapers a special kind of parent!
You Might Be a Cloth Diaper Service Parent
Are you still doing home wash?
We know a lot of parents believe in cloth diapers, but either don't know that diaper service is an option, or think it will be out of their budget. When comparing costs, remember to consider the real and important cost of your time!
Just thinking about washing diapers and how often are you going to have to wash them can make you tired! Many retailers suggest more than one wash; 3 cycles that include a short wash without detergent, a regular wash with detergent and an extra rinse to avoid smelly diapers.
But time is not the only issue. Home washing machines are simply not made to handle the high temperatures and multiple water changes needed to get your diapers as clean and fresh as possible.
So what’s the solution?
Use a cloth diaper delivery service
Our service is easy and convenient! Weekly pickup of your soiled diapers and delivery of clean ones and you don’t need to be there.
Our commercial laundry insures that your baby’s diapers meet a high standard for safety and cleanliness (over 11 water changes during washing). Our diapers are tested for pH and absorbency and are sent to an independent lab for monthly testing. We also abide by the RDIA guidelines for segregation of clean and dirty diapers and our clean processing area and the dirty sorting area in our warehouse are divided. Even our delivery van is divided to ensure that clean diapers never are in the same area or come into contact with dirty diapers.
Friends Still Think You are Crazy?
You know how amazing cloth diapers are (and how easy they can be when using a diaper service to wash them for you), but in case your friends still need some convincing, share these facts with them:
Environmental Impact – good cloth diapers can be used on 3-4 children and then recycled
Baby’s comfort – cloth diapers allow for better airflow. That makes it so the moisture that is next to your baby’s skin is more likely to evaporate which means less rashes.
Disposable diapers become hot and sticky inside, cloth does not.
Ease of Potty Training – Cloth diapering makes the sensation of wetness more noticeable to your child. This gives them the feedback they need.
Reliable – Cloth used with our recommended covers catches more blowouts because of the snug fit around the baby’s back.
Solid waste goes where it is supposed to not in our landfills (where viruses and disease can live and contaminate nearby water sources).
What Are Your Reasons for Using Cloth?
Come over and join us on our Facebook page. It is where all the cool moms and dads hang out. Okay, maybe not, but at least all the ones who care about cloth diapers! We would love you to share your reasons for choosing cloth!
We have been providing clean fresh cotton diapers delivered straight to your door for over 30 years. We are also a family run business, with children and grandchildren of our own. Now let us share some of the parenting wisdom we have learned along the way!