Newborns are wonderful! I can remember sitting for hours just watching my babies sleep. They were at once fascinating and frightening. Most of all, I felt helpless to understand them. How can you communicate with someone who doesn’t talk?

The good news is, newborns can communicate, and you can learn to understand their special language.

I Need You

Consider for a moment the fact that newborns have probably not changed since the beginning of newborns. Instinctively you baby knows it is not safe to be alone. When he realizes he is no longer in your arms, he knows exactly how to call you back. At this age, your baby doesn’t realize you are just across the room. His crying is not manipulation; it is a survival skill. He’s looking for his protector and his food source, the one who has everything he needs. Keeping your baby close and meeting his needs for security, warmth, sucking and nutrition will help him learn to trust.

Newborns come to the world with all their senses intact. We used to believe newborn behavior was mostly reflexive in nature. Now we know those tiny neurons are growing and firing exponentially as your baby begins to process her experiences in the world. Within a day or two, your newborn will recognize you by your scent, your voice and your face, and can distinguish you and your partner from other family members. Babies find bright colors, patterns, and faces very interesting and will focus on them for brief periods of time. At first, newborns can focus best at a distance of 10-12 inches, which is about the distance from your face to your baby’s face while breastfeeding.

When your newborn is quiet and alert, you can engage her in play with a brightly colored toy that rattles, or simply hold her close and talk to her. Call her name and speak in a loving voice. She may fix her gaze on your face, with wide eyes and an open mouth. Imitate her by opening yours. This kind of play is very exciting to a newborn. When she looks away, it’s probably because she is over stimulated and is trying to regroup. Give her a minute, and she may reengage with you. If she is unable to calm herself, she may begin to fuss. Allowing her to suck will help her to calm. Low lights and a low noise level will help your newborn to be more alert and interactive.

Touch And Talk

Touch is vital to the human experience, with complex implications. Try touching your baby’s face. You will find it elicits the rooting reflex. Your baby will open his mouth and search for the nipple. Infant massage is a wonderful way to experience the joys of touch with your baby. There are many good infant massage books available. When you massage your baby, use a light and edible oil such as coconut. Massage legs, feet, toes, arms, hands, fingers, chest, and back using gentle pressure, but not so lightly that it tickles. A massage can be short or long. Your baby will let you know when it is time to stop. Massage can be done any time of day. Some parents find massage is a great way for a parent who works all day to reconnect and enjoy their baby in the evening. Try a massage before or after a bath as part of developing a bedtime routine.

Each newborn will develop a unique range of sounds and cries to make their needs known. Parents often tell me they have learned to distinguish between the “wet cry” and the “feed me” cry, the “where are you?” cry and the “I need some help to calm down” cry. Babies don’t have language as we do, but through their actions and cries they do communicate, and parents learn to understand most of the time. When you really aren’t sure what you baby is trying to tell you, don’t’ underestimate your parent’s intuition, the instincts you have that help to make you a better parent.

It’s likely you will receive lots of parenting advice, no matter how many babies you may have. Always remember, no one understands your baby better than you do.