5 Words Your Baby is Saying
Updated: Feb 4
All newborn babies communicate by using five sounds. Learn how to decode your baby's language.
When your baby first comes home, it's a transition for everyone. Your baby is figuring out the world around her. She's gone from a warm, comfortable space where she didn't have to know how to breath, ask for food, or communicate discomfort. You and your partner are getting used to less sleep and catering to the needs of a small human who can't tell you what she needs. Or can she? Priscilla Dunstan, Australian native and owner of Dunstan Baby Language, originally presented the theory that babies from birth to 3 months have a very real language, based upon physiological reflexes. And with a little practice, any mom or dad can be fluent in their baby's language in no time.
1. Neh: hunger
Young babies have a need to nurse or feed on demand. It may seem at first, that they never stop eating. Stretches of cluster feeding is normal in early infant development. When listening for the hunger word "neh" pay special attention to hear the "n" sound. The "neh" sound results from the sucking relfex: the tongue presses up against the rough of the mouth as to suck and creates an "nnn" sound.
Additionally, you may find that by the time you're hearing your baby cry out of hunger, he's already very agitated. That's because crying is a late hunger sign. Try to look for hunger cues ahead of time like routing or sucking on hands.
2. Owh: tired
The sound "owh" is based on the yawn reflex. Especially in the earlier days when baby doesn’t have much other way to communicate except for sounds, this could be your only sleepy cue.
Other cues for young babies could also include turning the head side to side, which is a result of over stimulation. You may notice this side to side head movement when baby is facing you whilst you're holding him or even if you're wearing him in a carrier.
Other cues, especially as baby matures, could include rubbing the eyes, sucking the thumb, tugging at the ears. My son actually will dig at his ears when he’s tired.
You’ll want to make sure you don’t let your baby get over tired. Babies who are over tired can get more stimulated or agitated when the body releases cortisol, a stress hormone, when they’ve missed their sleepy window, so when you hear that "owh" sound, help your baby get some sleep.
3. Heh: discomfort
To identify this sound, listen closely for the "hhh" sound at the beginning of the word. Baby discomfort may be the trickier of complaints to answer. Discomfort could be a result of a dirty or wet diaper, baby being too hot or too cold, or lying in a position that's uncomfortable.
If you’ve done everything you can think to relieve baby's discomfort or other needs – a diaper change, repositioning or rocking, feeding – it may be a good idea to check with your doctor about possible common afflictions in young babies like reflux, GERD, gassiness or milk allergy to see what you can do to help get your baby more comfortable. Your doctor may recommend a certain medication, slightly inclined sleep, a specific diet for you if you’re breastfeeding, or a special formula if you are bottle feeding. But definitely check with your doctor before trying any new medication or formulas at home.
4. Eair: lower abdominal gas
To identify this word, you'll want to pay particular attention to listen for an "rrrr" sound.
Familiar with the Period of PURPLE Crying? Purple crying begins at about two weeks of age and continues until about eight weeks or a bit longer. If you tune in to baby's sound during this time, you'll often hear the "eair" noise. For whatever reason, this may happen more so in the late evening. It is sometimes also referred to as the witching hour.
If you hear the "eair" sound, it might help baby release lower abdominal gas by utilizing the football hold, trying some tummy time, giving a tummy massage, or bicycling baby's legs.
Not all purple crying is due to lower gas. You may also hear the tired cry as it's common for babies to become over stimulated in the early evening, so try to listen carefully as you may here a mixture of sounds.
Remember, getting through this difficult period requires extreme patience and knowledge that this is normal and short-lived. If you are alone and it's happening and you can't deal with it, it's best to place your baby down on a safe surface like the crib and walk away for a moment. Take a breather. And if you can, ask for help.
5. Eh: upper abdominal gas
When your baby says, "eh" he is telling you he needs to burp. Put him up on your shoulder so his belly gets some pressure from your shoulder and pat on the back to help release upper abdominal air.