Us as parent dread the sound of our baby crying. Especially when they are really young. Us as parents tend to have a huge array of all sorts of fears about their little one’s well-being and health. We do whatever we can to guess exactly what it is that their baby wants, what could it be that might be causing them discomfort? The big questions I always get asked when I speak with potential clients & parents about sleep training is while there be crying? How do you know or even understand babies without using words? I have decided to outline 3 main methods that can help babies communicate with adults which have been collated by experts.

Obviously, while every parent has to learn, understand and interpret their own baby’s individual signs, myself have developed an interested in some common rules used to distinguish their needs which I wish to share with you now to help you better understand what is occurring with your child, their sleep and what that crying actually means .

The way they cry

As we are all aware, crying is the only and main way that our little ones can express their needs to us during their first 4 months of life. But do we as parents now or understand whether the baby is crying for? Can we tell the difference because of hunger, pain, or something else cry? Let me help you better understand these.

The calling cry. This occurs usually when the baby has been alone for a long time. They are telling you now that what they want is their parents to pick them up. This is signaled by them continuously cry for 5-6 seconds, then they pause for 20 seconds during this time they are waiting for the results. When their parent does not respond promptly enough, they then start this cycle again, repeating several times until the crying becomes continuous.

The Hunger Cry. This usually starts with the calling cry. However, if the calling cry did not result in them being picked up and fed, then the cry will continue becoming more hysterical overtime. This can also be accompanied by a baby rotating their head, making smacking sounds with their mouth to draw and get their attention.

A cry due to pain. This crying is very distinct. This crying is loud, monotonous, and constant. With periodic hysterical bursts. This is the indication of the pain increasing. There will however be a difference if at any point the baby is getting sick, their cry can also be monotonous, but quiet, this being due to the fact that they don’t have enough energy or strength to make loud noises.

A cry because of physiological processes. For some babies or children, even the natural body function of passing gas, urinating, or defecation can cause discomfort initially in a child. The type of crying associated with this resembles more of a whining and squeaking sound.

A cry because of sleepiness. When the situation arises that a baby wants to sleep, but, for some reason can’t fall asleep, the cry will sound changes more like an offended and smooth whining, closely followed by yawning. The baby will usually also start rubbing their eyes and ears.

A cry because of discomfort. This cry is irritated, and intermittent. It is often accompanied by the baby or child fidgeting. The baby can also flail and arch.  At this point, it means it is time to check diapers, or their temperature with touch as they simply may be feeling too cold or too hot in their clothes. Moreover, it is found that very tiny babies may cry more when they want to change their environment or when they have become frustrated or bored.

The sounds they make

Australian pediatrician Priscilla Dunstan has been studying and researching early childhood sounds (up to 3-4 months old) for more than 20 years. Thousands of babies of different nationalities have taken part in her experiments. Priscilla thinks that primary reflex sounds are international. After turning 4 months old, babies start to make sounds seeking communication which relate more to physical needs.

Priscilla opened her own school teaching new parents to understand their babies. It’s thought that the ability to recognize these sounds in time can prevent an upcoming crying episode.

The ’dictionary’ of the main sounds includes:

’Neh’ – “I’m hungry!” This sound is produced when the baby pushes their tongue up to the roof of their mouth and is triggered by the sucking reflex.

’Eh’ – “I’m gonna burp!” This sound is formed when excess air starts to leave the baby’s esophagus and the baby tries to reflexively release it from their mouth.

’Owh’ – “I’m sleepy or tired!” The baby produces this ’sound of tiredness’ by folding their lips before yawning.

’Heh’ – “I’m feeling uncomfortable!” Unpleasant tactile sensations make the baby move and jerk their hands and feet. All these movements contribute to producing the ’Heh’ sound, especially when the baby’s mouth is slightly opened.

’Eairh’ – ’I have gases and pain in my tummy!’ The sounds they make get distorted and turn into a moan when a baby strains their tummy and exhales while trying to get rid of the pain.

Body language says a lot about a baby’s well-being:

Babies under 2 months old often make arches in their backs or fletching movements when they are responding to pain and colic. If you notice your baby starts to arch their back after eating, it means that they are full. If you often see your baby doing this movement during eating, it can be a sign of reflux. In babies over the age of 2 months old that are doing this is usually an indicates of tiredness and/or a bad mood.

Rotating their head. This is a very calming movement for themselves done by the baby. They are most likely do it before falling asleep or when they’re around unknown people.

Grabbing their ears. In most cases, this movement shows the baby is just exploring their body. If however, you notice this movement is followed with a cry and is repeated often by the baby then it is advisable to consult the doctor.

Clenching their fists. This is the best sign of hunger. If you are aware of this and are able to manage to notice it in time, you can prevent the crying caused by them being hungry

Lifting their legs. This is the sign of colic and tummy pain. The baby is trying to reflexively ease the pain.

Jerking their arms. This sudden a forceful movement means that the baby has gotten a fright. A loud sound, bright light, or sudden awakening can provoke the startle reflex. In this case, the baby will be in need of comfort.

I always like to recommend and encourage parents to talking with your baby as often as possible> I ask them to explain and showing them everything in their environment. To some, it may seem odd as they don’t believe that they even have an understanding of anything as yet. However, more and more it has been proven to help them to quickly start to communicate with loved ones using individual sounds and gestures, and it also helps them develop better. We wish you luck and hope you have an easy time understanding each other!