One of the most frustrating parts of being a new parent is feeling clueless about your baby’s wants and needs. Does a soft, whimpering cry mean he’s got a wet diaper—or that he’s getting hungry? What about a loud screech? And forget about crying for a moment—what does it mean when your baby rubs her ears, or flails her arms around?
Babies communicate long before they say their first words, says Linda Acredolo, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology at University of California, Davis, and author of Baby Signs. “Babies are born with the ability to express several emotions, including distress and contentment,” she says. When we read their cues and respond quickly to their needs, she adds, babies feel secure and the parent-child bond is strengthened. Of course, easier said than done—not all babies send the exact same signals, and sometimes it takes months before you feel truly in tune with your baby. Still, some general principles apply. Read on for expert advice on how to decode three major types of baby cues. Read more