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!
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!