Babies and body language

Baby started making her needs and desires known long before she even started thinking about talking, just by variations in her cries, her facial expressions, and the movements of her body. Over the past few months, though, you’ve probably noticed her nonverbal communication start to get more refined, even as she 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 her 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 she feels, which you have learned to read. Motions like turning her head away when she is overwhelmed and needs a little break, or yawning and rubbing her eyes when she 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 her ears not just if she is having ear pain, but also sometimes because her mouth, throat, or nasal passages are hurt, sick or irritated, or if she 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 her feet with joy or excitement, are easy to read alongside the expression on her face. If Baby is having gas pain, and draws her legs up to her chest in response, there’s a good chance that discomfort is going to be just as obvious in her face as it is in her movements.

What is changing as Baby gets older, though, is that eventually, this unspoken communication starts to get a lot less one-sided as she starts to learn that you’ll respond to her motions, and then starts making them specifically to be responded to. She may kick out to make a noise to get your attention if she misses you, smile at you to get you to smile in response, or raise her arms to ask to be picked up. Even that infuriating thing where she catches your eye and deliberately drops something so you’ll lean over and pick it up again is her way of actively engaging you in a conversation without words.

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