Your baby‘s inability to speak doesn’t stop her from expressing herself to you. Instead of words, she uses body language to communicate her feelings, thoughts and desires.
Look for language in her physical movements. Your baby tells you she has a tummy ache by drawing her knees tightly up to her stomach. You can tell she is relaxed when she lies flat on her back, gazing wide-eyed at the musical mobile.
Facial expressions are her way of communicating emotions. Psychologists have identified seven basic facial expressions that adults are capable of generating- unhappiness, joy, surprise, interest, disgust, terror and rage. Your baby too has enough control over her facial muscles to create all of these facial expressions herself.
And then there is crying. During this first year, you quickly learn that your baby has different cries to express her different moods and sensations. You will develop an ability to tell one cry from another. It’s amazing how much she can tell you without uttering a word!
Here are some of her typical cries:
This is one of those cries that starts off reasonably quiet, and then gets louder and louder. There are occasional pauses for a few seconds, as she swallows great gulps of air, but the crying is relentless.
“IT’S CHANGING TIME”
She doesn’t like to lie in a dirty nappy, and she wriggles her body about. Her crying is not so sharp because her distress is not so great. She may stop her tears occasionally, but will keep crying until she is changed into a dry one.
“IT’S PLAY TIME”
Your baby can amuse herself to some extent but she needs you to play, tall and interact with her. When bored, she uses crying almost like a shout – it is just to attract your attention.
Three months and over, eye-movements also become part of her body language repertoire. You know exactly what she means when she stares at the biscuit tin, babbles angrily and starts to cry. And when she bangs a toy loudly against the side of her cot, her furrowed expression lets you know she is angry. So make sure that you shop for toys that are durable.
SHE’s NEARLY ONE
By the time she’s one, these are some of the feelings she expresses:
Her hands push the food bowl away. She turns her face away as you raise the spoon to her lips. She’s telling you “I don’t like this and I want something else.”
You hear strange noises coming from her cot, and when you get there she’s straining to get hold of something that is just outside her reach.
Lethargic body movements communicate as much as active gestures. If you’re infant is normally very active all the time and full of enthusiasm during her waking hours, then any listlessness should tell you she is feeling unwell.
Your baby’s ability to express her underlying feelings non-verbally creates a strong relationship with you. The more she feels you understand her, the stronger her emotional attachment to you.