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Baby ‘talk’ decoded

Babies communicate through sounds. Find out what your baby’s trying to tell you.

If you listen carefully to your new baby’s noises you can use them to understand what your baby is trying to communicate to you. You’ve probably noticed that before your baby goes into full-on crying, they make ‘pre-cry’ sounds.

It turns out these sounds are made because of a physical reflex, such as sucking when your baby is hungry. According to Patricia Dunstan, founder of Dunstan Baby Language (DBL), your baby will only make these sounds between 0-3 months because they stop making those reflexes after that.

DBL recognises five sounds with five different meanings. It’s easier to hear the sounds during the pre-cry stage when a baby starts to fuss before crying.

If you listen for these and give your baby what they needs, it will not only avoid the crying, but you’ll feel like mom of the year!

1. ‘Neh’ = I’m hungry

The sound is made as part of the sucking reflex, like when a baby drinks milk. Listen for the ‘n’ sound at the beginning of the sound – your baby’s tongue touches the roof of their mouth when making this sound.
Other signs Turns head from side to side, licks lips, sucks fists
What to do? Feed your baby.

2. ‘Owh’ = I’m tired

This is the yawn reflex with sound added. Your baby makes an oval-shaped mouth when making this sound and it is usually followed shortly after with other signs that your baby is tired.
Other signs Jerky movements, pulling ears, arching back, rubbing eyes
What to do? Put your baby to sleep to avoid over-tiredness.

3. ‘Eh’ = Burp me

Your baby makes this sound when their chest tightens to try and get rid of trapped air bubbles. This sound is often short and repetitive, like ‘eh, eh, eh, eh’.
Other signs Squirming when laid down
What to do? Burp your baby. This will also reduce spitting up, since you won’t be feeding your baby on top of an air bubble.

4. ‘Eairh’ = I have gas pain

Your baby makes this sound when there is gas in their lower abdomen and it causes your baby pain or discomfort. This sound is urgent and distressed.
Other signs Baby’s face is scrunched up, their body becomes stiff or they pull their legs toward their tummy.
What to do? Change their position, massage their tummy or try ‘colic holds’ to relieve gas pain.

5. ‘Heh’ = I’m uncomfortable

Your baby makes this sound when they are too warm or cold, or when your baby has a dirty nappy. Listen for a clear ‘h’ sound at the beginning. It can sound a bit like panting.
Other signs Your baby will feel clammy or sweaty if too hot, or willl shiver and have cold hands and feet if too cold. If your baby squirms more than usual or doesn’t want to feed, they might have a dirty nappy.
What to do? Dress your baby in warmer clothes, remove some clothes, or change the dirty nappy, depending on the situation.

Read more: Here’s help to relieve colic.

Image: Gallo Images/Getty Images

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