Baby started making his needs and desires known long before he even started thinking about talking, just by variations in his cries, his facial expressions, and the movements of his body. Over the past few months, though, you’ve probably noticed his nonverbal communication start to get more refined, even as he moves closer and closer to communicating in words, too.
This happens because Baby’s communication through body language starts out pretty one-sided, with you reading his instinctive cues. These cues may come partially because Baby has been observing you, and how the way you move and act communicates your mood, but mostly they’re just the instinctive physical responses to the way he feels, which you have learned to read. Motions like turning his head away when he is overwhelmed and needs a little break, or yawning and rubbing his eyes when he is tired only make sense.
Other motions Baby makes from very early on are a little harder to decipher for first-time parents. These include tugging on his ears not just if he is having ear pain, but also sometimes because his mouth, throat, or nasal passages are hurt, sick or irritated, or if he is having teething pain. Fidgeting or hair twirling as a sign of nerves or being overwhelmed make total sense the same way they do for fidgety, nervous adults.
Still other motions, like kicking his feet with joy or excitement, are easy to read alongside the expression on his face. If Baby is having gas pain, and draws his legs up to his chest in response, there’s a good chance that discomfort is going to be just as obvious in his face as it is in his movements.
What is changing as Baby gets older, though, is that eventually, this unspoken communication starts to get a lot less one-sided as he starts to learn that you’ll respond to his motions, and then starts making them specifically to be responded to. He may kick out to make a noise to get your attention if he misses you, smile at you to get you to smile in response, or raise his arms to ask to be picked up. Even that infuriating thing where he catches your eye and deliberately drops something so you’ll lean over and pick it up again is his way of actively engaging you in a conversation without words.