Your Baby’s Three-Word Vocabulary

When you first bring your baby home from the hospital, every cry can sound like an urgent alarm. When your baby cries, how can you tell exactly what he needs? Is the “I’m sleepy” cry different from an “I’m starving” cry?

Some baby books tell parents that it’s possible to decipher their baby’s message from the way he cries; but at birth, your infant’s compact brain simply doesn’t have enough room for a repertoire of grunts and whines with various definitions. By three months, he will learn to make many different noises that are easier to decipher – but during the first few months, most babies make three simple sounds:

Whimpering. This mild fussing sounds more requesting than complaining, like a call from a neighbor asking to borrow some sugar.

Crying. This good strong yelp demands your attention, like when your kitchen timer goes off.

Shrieking.. This last “word” is a piercing, glass-shattering wail, as shrill and unbearable as a burglar alarm.

In general, we all assume that whimpering means a slight unhappiness like hunger or sleepiness, crying indicates greater distress like being very hungry or cold, and shrieking signals pain or irritation. If your baby is a relatively calm child, your guesses are probably correct. The crying of fussy babies, on the other hand, are often impossible to decipher from the sound of their cries alone. These little ones often shift immediately into loud, piercing shrieks that make it impossible to tell whether or not they have an urgent problem, making is difficult for even the greatest of scientists to determine a difference between cries of hunger, pain, and even impatience. Fussy babies blast out the same intense one-size-fits-all scream regardless of what’s bothering them.

For more information on fussy babies and how to calm constant crying, check out The Happiest Baby On The Block book & DVD.

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