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.
Loud noises, bright lights, or a head bobble can trigger the startle reflex -- babies jerk, spread out their arms and legs, then quickly pull them back in and cry. The startle reflex is present at birth, but fades between three and six months.
What to do: Although startling doesn't hurt the baby, it can feel scary and set off a crying fit. To recreate the security of the womb, where sound and light were muffled, try swaddling your baby with a lightweight receiving blanket. (This technique is best for younger babies. By four months, most babies can squirm out of a swaddle, Saysana notes -- after six months, swaddling can lead to hip problems.) For instructions on how to swaddle your baby, visit babytalk.com.
Crying is the quickest way for your baby to let you know she's tired, hungry, in pain -- or just plain fussy. But which cry is which? "At birth, all the cries sound pretty much the same," says Bahr. "Newborn babies cry when they inhale and exhale; they don't have much respiratory control." Start listening for variations around one month, explains Bahr -- as your baby matures, you'll be able to figure out what she wants from the cry she makes. Here are the biggies:
A baby will generally wake up hungry and crying for food. "It's a short, low-pitched cry, just over a second in duration," says Bahr. If you don't respond quickly, the cry becomes louder and more intense.
What to do: Respond to your baby as quickly as possible, especially in the first few months of life. You're not going to spoil your baby by picking him up and feeding him right away. Tending to your baby's hunger immediately teaches him that you'll always be there to care for his needs.