15+ Ways Your Baby Communicates With You Before He or She Speaks

Babies scream and cry, trying (and often failing) to tell us what they want – leading to frustration amongst both parents and wee-ones.

Babies may start to say their first words like “baba” or “dada” between 5 and 9 months old.

Yet, it isn’t until 28 to 32 months old that your baby starts to use some words correctly, and then you’ll have to wait until around 40 months for your little one to start carrying on conversations and really telling you what they want.

That’s a long time to live with someone who doesn’t have a way of calmly communicating their wants and needs. To help combat the issue, it’s become rather popular to teach babies sign language as they are able to understand and replicate visual cues with their hands long before they have the physical capacity to talk.

Even if you haven’t taken the time to teach your baby sign language, Pricilla Dunstan, who appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in November 2016, has a theory about what your baby is trying to say by assessing their cries, sounds, and movements.

While Dunstan’s theories have yet to be scientifically proven, they are certainly worth considering, and interesting to say the least.

The Different Cries Baby Makes


The Sleepy Cry

When your baby wants to sleep their cry will take on a whiny tone, and they tend to rub at their eyes and ears.

Hungry Cry

Take note if your baby is making smacking sounds with their mouth and rotating their head around, this may signal hunger.

Discomfort Cry

If your baby is uncomfortable – too cold, too hot, or has a dirty diaper – their cry will take on an irritated tone. You may notice them squirming or arching their body.

Pain Cry

This is a louder and more consistent cry. The greater the pain, the more hysterical the crying becomes. If your baby becomes exhausted from all the crying, their sounds may become quitter but still persistent.

Calling Cry

If your baby is crying on and off, pausing for around 20 seconds and then picking back up again, it may mean they want to be picked up.

Psychological Cry

If your baby is feeling under the weather thanks to bloating or gas you may notice a whiny and squeaky cry.

Environmental Cry

If your baby is unhappy in their environment or simply bored, they will let out a frustrated cry.

Assessing The Way Your Baby Moves

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Clenched Fists

Babies tend to clench their fists when they are hungry. Take note when your baby does this, act fast enough and you might be able to feed them in time to prevent the crying that will otherwise ensue.

Arching Their Back

This movement is specific to babies who are two months old and may signal discomfort from colic or something else.

If your baby arches their back after eating, it may simply mean they are full.

If your baby arches their back while eating, it may signal the onset of acid reflux.

When babies older than two months make this same motion, it may mean they are tired.

Ear Grabbing

If ear grabbing is occasional, it’s likely just your baby exploring his or her features. If they continue to grab at their ear, you should contact your pediatrician.

Rotating Their Head

Rotation of the head provides a calming effect for babies. They tend to do this before they fall asleep or when they are trying to calm themselves down.

Jerking Their Arms

If your baby becomes startled by loud noises, bright lights, or just about anything else, you may notice them jerking their arm.

Leg Lifting

Babies will lift their legs when trying to soothe some type of pain or discomfort, such as colic or a stomachache.

Assessing The Sounds Your Baby Makes



Babies make this sound by pushing their tongue to the roof of their mouth, this signals that they want to eat. In addition, the sucking reflex will provoke this sound.


You’ll notice baby making this sound right before he or she burps, letting excess air out of their esophagus.


Bloating or gas causing your baby discomfort? They may make this sound to tell you. This is the sound that comes out when baby tries to exhale to release their frustration.


This sound also signals discomfort. They tend to move their hands and feet as they make the sound.


Babies make this sound by folding their lips before letting out a yawn. It means they are sleepy.

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What do you think about Pricilla Dunstan’s theories?