11 Important Baby Cues
How moms can decode baby signals like smiling, copying mom and dad, eye rubbing, and crying, so they can respond to their babies and bond with them.
Arching his back
Starting a few weeks after birth, babies begin arching their backs when they're in discomfort, says Michele Saysana, M.D., director of the Pediatric Hospitalist Program at Riley Hospital for Children at the Indiana University School of Medicine. "It might mean he has reflux, especially when the arched back is combined with crying," she says. "The baby will squirm around and move to try to get to a more comfortable position." Often babies arch their backs when they've had enough to eat and want to move away from the breast. (Around 4 or 5 months, this movement might mean something completely different -- that your baby is trying to roll over for the first time.)
What to do: Your baby probably just needs a change of position (after all, she can't move very much herself yet.) If she's in a carrier, car seat, or stroller, try taking her out for a few minutes; hold her upright against your shoulder or give her some wiggle time on the floor.
Rubbing eyes and/or ears
Babies will rub their eyes and ears with their hands when they are starting to tire. "Before 6 months, they rub their faces against something if they are tired or itchy," she says. "After that, they might discover an ear by accident, and take comfort in pulling or rubbing it. Ears are a sensitive part of the body, and babies like feeling them."
What to do: Start your bedtime or naptime routine as soon as baby begins rubbing his ears and face. One caveat: If your baby is rubbing his ears, has a temperature of over 101 degrees, and is fussy, he may have an ear infection and you should call your pediatrician, says Dr. Saysana.
The rooting reflex is a key to survival, as it helps the baby find food. "A newborn will turn his head whenever something touches his cheek," says Dr. Saysana. "The reflex disappears after the first few weeks, although babies will still turn toward you to nurse -- it's not automatic anymore and becomes a cue they are hungry."
What to do: Use the rooting reflex to your advantage while your baby figures out feeding; a simple touch of the cheek will help him find the breast or bottle.