February 15, 2017

“She has unlocked the secret language of babies.”

“Five words that all babies say, regardless of race and culture.”

Okay, I totally thought this was bogus the first time I heard about it. But I was also expecting a baby and reading everything I could to prepare for her arrival, so I went ahead and watched the 17 minute clip on Oprah with Priscilla Dunstan.

And then I made Ben watch it, because I was sold.

“A universal secret language that babies use to talk to us.”

Babies only have a few basic needs, right? Eat, sleep, poop, repeat. It can’t be that hard- just try the next one, right? Well, if you really believe that, you clearly have no new parent friends, because if taking care of babies were that easy, your new parent friends wouldn’t all be exhausted and frustrated all the time.

A few months ago we were talking with some soon-to-be-parents about the different types of baby cries, and my husband half-jokingly suggested they tape a cheat sheet to the wall by the baby’s crib. And maybe outside the door and on their phones… and I joked that I’d even write a post about it so they could find it on my blog if they needed.

And then I wrote this post so they could find it on my blog if they ever needed :).




“HEH” = DISCOMFORT (like burping)



How does this all work? Well, watching the clip is going to show you a lot easier than my written words can explain. If not the 17-minute one, try this 2-minute highlights one so you can see real babies using these sounds to communicate. The main idea is that in the first three months of life, babies have reflexes that result in universal (pre-cry) sounds that they make to signal needs. For example, they will make the “Neh, neh, neh” sound to say “I’m hungry!” for a while before giving up and moving on to full-blown crying if their need isn’t met. This happens because when they want to drink milk, their tongues naturally start making the sucking motion which results in a “neh” sound as their tongues reach the roof of their mouths.

Pretty cool, right? Ben and I tried our best to be on it with baby communication and we like to think that responding quickly and correctly to our baby girl’s needs helped prevent a lot of hysterical crying that could have happened. I do feel like she became increasingly patient, trusting that we were working to interpret her words and that we would take care of her without her dissolving into tears first. This continues to be true with her even now, in the preschool years!

One of the keys is to use this knowledge to meet their needs quickly, showing your baby that they don’t have to resort to indistinguishable crying to have their needs met. If you don’t address the problem they’re trying to communicate, they might give up trying to differentiate their cries altogether and you may lose a valuable opportunity to understand your baby’s needs better.

If you know anyone who is expecting a baby, please share this with them! It will be a lifesaver in those hard early months! I already feel like my days with young babies are long past, and I’m not gonna lie- I still daydream of having yet another… until flashbacks of AWFUL pregnancy nausea and general exhaustion keep those thoughts at bay. But if that day does come, I’ll know just where to find a cheat sheet to brush up on my baby language!

2 responses to “What Different Types of Baby Cries Mean”

  1. S.K. says:

    Hehe, thanks! We could easily identify neh and eh, but never had much luck with the other ones. The neh alone was super helpful though!

  2. Nancy says:

    Awesome!! Thank you 🙂

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