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Communicating With Your New Baby, From Our Friends at Nemours Children’s Health

Babies cry to communicate. Pay attention to your baby's "language" and learn how to respond to his or her needs.

Babies are born with the ability to cry, which is how they communicate for a while. Your baby’s cries generally tell you that something is wrong: an empty belly, a wet bottom, cold feet, being tired, or needing to be held and cuddled.

Sometimes you can identify what your baby needs by the type of cry. For example, the “I’m hungry” cry may be short and low-pitched, while “I’m upset” may sound choppy. Before you know it, you’ll probably be able to recognize which need your baby is expressing and respond accordingly.

But babies also can cry when feeling overwhelmed by all of the sights and sounds of the world — or for no clear reason at all. So if your baby cries and can’t be calmed right away, remember that crying is one way babies react when they’re overloaded.

Pay attention to how your little one responds to your voice. The sound of your voice means food, warmth, touch, and comfort. If your baby is crying, see how quickly your approaching voice quiets them. See how closely your baby listens when you talk in loving tones. Even when staring into the distance, your baby will be paying close attention to your voice as you speak. Your baby may subtly adjust body position or facial expression, or even move their arms and legs in time with your speech.

Tips to Communicate with Your Baby

  • Talk to your baby whenever you have the chance. Even though your baby doesn’t understand what you’re saying, your calm, reassuring voice conveys safety. Your newborn is learning about life with almost every touch, so provide lots of tender kisses and your little one will find the world a soothing place.
  • Always respond to your newborn’s cries. You cannot spoil your baby with too much attention. Quick responses to their cries let them know that they’re safe and cared for. There will probably be times when you have met all needs, yet your baby continues to cry. Don’t worry — your little one might be overstimulated, tired, or just needs a good cry for no apparent reason.
  • Try to soothe your baby. When upset, some babies are comforted by motion, such as rocking or being walked back and forth across the room. Others respond to sounds, like soft music or the hum of a vacuum cleaner. It may take some time to find out what best comforts your baby during these stressful periods.

Do you remember your baby’s very first cry? From the moment of birth, babies begin to communicate.

At first, your newborn’s cries may seem like a foreign language. But before you know it, you’ll learn your baby’s “language” and be able to answer your little one’s needs.


Nemours Children’s is a leading nonprofit pediatric health system serving Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. www.nemours.org