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6 Things Your Baby Would Tell You

Babies can be so adept at letting us know what they don't like. The first (and last) time my husband gave our daughter ham from a baby-food jar, for instance, she thrust it back at him with her tongue and gagged in disgust. In case that was unclear, she proceeded to turn purple with fury and scream herself hoarse.

Even though she was just 8 months old, she could not have made her opinion any more clear.

Communication with a baby isn't always so cut-and-dried. As parents, we wonder what our infants' secret chortles are all about, what they see in a shaft of light or the corner of a room that's so fascinating, and why, oh why they cry.

You won't be able to interpret every gurgle and squeal your baby makes in the first year. But here are a few things we're sure he'd tell you if he could:

"I'm not always hungry when I cry"
Cynthia Werry of San Jose, California, loves being a first-time mom to Alex, now 1. But when it comes to food, she's stumped. "It seems like I'm always trying to guess what he needs," she says. "The other day he clamped his jaw shut like a steel trap. I said, 'Should I believe you? It's been three hours; you're really not hungry?'"

The debate about whether our kids are hungry is one we all engage in from the time they're born until we send them off to college (actually, my mom still seems obsessed with whether I'm taking my vitamins and eating too much sugar). Though there are lots of personal choices to make, experts agree on one issue: If your baby is otherwise healthy and his actions suggest he's not hungry (he turns away from food, he ate an hour ago and seemed full then), believe him.

Feeding too much and pushing a full baby to keep eating isn't good for him. If he cries when it's not a mealtime, try to figure out if there's something else bothering him before pulling out a bottle or the pureed peas.

If he turns up his nose at food, you can do what Werry did. "When I sat back and looked Alex over, it was pretty obvious he wasn't going to wither away. So we put the food away and moved on."

Jana Murphy, a mom of three and aunt of 25, is the author of The Secret Lives of Toddlers.