Crying, Smiling, Eureuh, Babbling; how to decipher a baby’s language?

baby language sign

How to decipher your baby’s language? A baby’s communication skills begin to show early in life. During his first 12 months, the baby learns to communicate and discovers the sounds of his tongue. He also “practices” using them when he does “aaaa,” then “bababa.” Little by little, he understands words, then he begins to speak.

1. Construction of baby’s language

Language development is very complex in children. He must first master the coordination of his movements. They are the ones that modify the path of the air contained in the lungs, pharynx, nose, and mouth to produce the articulatory configurations allowing the emission of the desired sound. Every second of production requires several hundred neuromuscular events.

The influence of parents, support structures (nursery school), and the environment is truly decisive. In this context, the child then learns to communicate orally first in a non-verbal mode, well before the appearance of language.

As the infant grows, different “levels of language” succeed and combine.

2. Baby’s language: basics from birth

It is as early as his life in utero that the child begins to acquire language. Once his eardrums have formed, around the 6th month of pregnancy, he will rock in a world of sounds and rhythms. This is why, from birth, the newborn is already able to distinguish his mother tongue from a foreign language based on their melodies. Because he hears it better than others, his mom’s voice is also more familiar to him.

From 3 to 6 months, the baby makes voluntary sounds (chirps). He enjoys looking at his parents’ eye, he is interested in his surroundings, and he responds to mom and dad voices by turning his head in their direction or stopping crying.

Between 6 and 9 months, the baby starts to babble: for example, he makes “dadada” and “mamama.” Soon he will imitate sounds, then words.

From 9 to 12 months, even if he is not speaking yet, the baby communicates a lot, by smiling and laughing when he sees his parents, he reaches out to get caught, points to an object to ask for it, or shows his interest. Babies also diversify the sounds they make. When babbling, he generally produces the sounds “p,” “m,” “b,” “t,” “d,” and “n” more easily.

From around 9 months, babies also recognize some common words (including their name), even if they cannot say them. It is usually between 12 and 16 months old that a child begins to say words such as “mommy,” “daddy,” “no” or “milk.”

From 12 to 18 months,  toddlers cannot combine words to indicate the things they see and express what they want. So a word can mean several things. For example, the word “still” is often used in several contexts.

From 18 to 24 months, the toddler continues to develop his vocabulary. When he says several words for people and objects, he begins to name actions (e.g., eating, drinking). Some sounds remain difficult for him to pronounce.

At 3 years old: the child speaks almost as well as an adult

By 3 years old, all the children in the world have as good an understanding of their mother tongue as adults and can speak. Because their vocal tract is not yet mature, they still find it difficult to articulate well. Some consonants can also cause them real problems. But they are ready to discover the joys of conversation and will now have to learn to listen.

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3. Translation of baby’s language

3.1 Baby’s language; face features

Babies have many expressions on their faces that reflect how they feel or what they want. And these expressions are more transparent and clear than crying. Watch your baby’s face and notice how long he smiles, and when he’s upset, over time, you will be able to decipher the nonverbal code that your baby is trying to communicate with you.

3.2 Baby’s language; looking away

If your baby turns his gaze on you after feeding or playing, this means that he needs to take a short break from eye contact. This is an indication that the child is starting to feel exhausted from overstimulation. He may also start playing with his hands or feet to take a break from playing and communicating with another person. Don’t force your toddler to look at you or try to catch his eye with toys and other stimuli. Give him the time he needs to relax from communication and motivation. Then come back to contact him after a short while.

3.3 baby’s language; smiling

The smile is, therefore, part of spontaneous and involuntary facial expressions; initially, it reflects a baby’s state of pleasure from birth. Then baby understands the meaning of a smile because you value it. He then smiles on purpose. Regarding laughter, which comes later, the baby tries to express his amusement. His outbursts are in reaction to something he finds funny or surprising.

3.4 Baby’s language; pouting

A baby may pout a little too. It’s not about sulking as an older child would. Instead, we are talking about emotion in reaction to an upset that the baby wants to imitate or express. If you value this attitude, with a simple “There, you’re freaking out!”, Baby will quickly understand how to express his dissatisfaction.

3.5 Baby’s language; rubbing the eyes or ears

Babies rub their ears and eyes when they feel tired. They may also rub their faces with anything like a blanket. When you notice these signs on your baby, start preparing him for sleep.

3.6 Baby’s language; stretching out his arms

Baby will also stretch out his arms. This gesture may initially be spontaneous. Baby is asking for something, and he quickly realizes that by waving his arms, you will be hugging him. It expresses the need for entertainment or comfort.

3.7 baby’s language; Crying

Crying is the fastest baby’s language for expressing their needs. After birth, the child’s crying is the same at all times, so it is difficult for the mother to distinguish whether this crying reflects hunger or fatigue.

Hunger crying: Babies often wake up feeling hungry and start crying as soon as they wake up. Hunger crying is characterized by being short in duration and with a low pitch. The crying lasts for a few seconds, but if you do not respond, your child’s crying will become louder and more intense. Respond quickly and feed your baby as soon as you hear the hunger cry.

Pain crying: Cries due to pain are more intense than others. This is what causes the immediate arrival of parents. The sound begins with a cry of more than 4 seconds, followed by a complete stop of 7 seconds on exhalation. The screams then resume a short breath just before the howl. Acute pain is an intense, shrill, piercing sound that is proportional to the intensity of the pain. Continuous pain corresponds to a monotonous, low sound.

Fatigue crying: The crying of infants at the age of two months or three months becomes more varied, and he will have a special cry through which he expresses his feeling of tiredness. This crying is sporadic and of low intensity. If your baby has been awake for several hours and starts to cry, then he is most likely tired. Try to calm your baby to sleep when he cries, complaining of being tired.

Remember that all children learn to master communication and language at their own pace. Some of their abilities develop early and others later. If you ever have concerns about your child’s language acquisition, talk to their doctor.

Originally published on Live Positively.