Reading Your Baby's Cues
By Vicki Thrasher Cronin
Licensed Parent Educator, Pre-K Teacher
Over the past nine months, you and your family have been getting ready for the addition of a new family member. You’ve been asking questions, reading and even watching media presentations about the growth and development of your baby. And you’ve been pre-occupied with wonderment about this little person: Is the baby a girl or boy, who will my baby look like?
Love like you’ve never felt before. That describes the feelings that race through your body as you hold your baby for the first time.
All of your senses are alert, ready to receive cues or signs that will guide you in getting to know your baby. Your baby will have many ways to let you know what is needed when, how to deliver it, how to comfort her. Babies are wired for survival, and you are their primary survival tool. Your baby comes hard-wired with communication skills. Your job is to de-code your baby’s signs. For example, your baby will cry to alert you that you are needed. The tone of your baby’s cry will let you know that she will need you soon or needs you now. Sometimes your baby will fuss to express discomfort or to release distress. Your baby will need your help to learn how to be comforted. You will need to try many different comforting strategies such as walking, rocking, back patting, stroking and massaging. Keep a journal about what works for your baby; you’ll be amazed at how fast that list will grow.
Getting to know your baby will also be guided by his or her temperament. Each baby comes into this world with genetic coding that predisposes him or her to be their own unique self. As you learn to “read” your baby and respond to his or her needs, you may find that your baby reminds you of someone else in the family! If you find you are having a hard time settling or calming your baby, ask other family members what they did to calm fussiness and prepare baby for new experiences. While you may not know your adopted baby’s family, your friends and family members can share tips on what works for many different babies. As you try various strategies, you’ll come to know what your baby likes and dislikes and before you know it, you’ll be able to predict what your baby needs and just what it is that you should do.
After your baby’s birth you will tune in to how your baby connects with you: gazing into your eyes, holding on to your finger, turning into your body to be fed, or turning away to let you know she’s had enough. Your baby will curl into you, or open up and shift his or her body over the next months in a way that will let you know how to hold, cuddle or soothe most effectively.
Your baby is born to communicate with you. The language is in code; your baby’s special cues or signs. You are the detective. Ask yourself, “what do I see that tells me what it is that my baby needs.” This undercover work reveals a little bit of understanding everyday and requires a lot of patience. Your baby is learning about you, too! As your baby coos, cries, wiggles or thrashes, you will fine-tune your response to the uniqueness of your baby. Soon you will be “in tune” with each other in a dance that lasts a lifetime.