Understanding Your Baby’s Emotional Cues

Even the tiniest babies have the ability to communicate their needs to us and not just by crying alone. Crying is their most obvious and effective method, but babies can also use cues (or signals) to indicate what their needs and wants are and in the early months these are non-verbal.


Being aware of these cues can help you parent more sensitively, you start to really understand your baby and respond appropriately and quickly to their needs. This helps with attachment: your baby feels secure and cared for. Repeated experiences of being responded to help shape baby’s view that the world in a safe place.


Recognising the signs that your baby is happy to be played with, or equally, when they are not can make for more effective and harmonious play times.

In our Baby College classes, we provide many different activities and exercises for parents and babies to try in class and then use at home. It is really helpful for parents to know and understand when their babies are feeling happy and engaged.


Some cues which show that baby wants to engage are:

 ·       they are still

·        gaze at your face

·        reach out to you

·        turns head and eyes towards you

·        smiles and coo's

·         moves arms and legs gently

·        eyes are bright and wide

·        face bright and responsive

·        may raise their head.



Equally babies can become easily overstimulated and we always recommend in our classes that parents look for the signs of disengagement. If a baby has had enough then it’s a really good idea for a parent to pick them up, give them a cuddle and even walk away from the mats; perhaps taking baby to look at a lovely blank wall


When a baby wants a break or a rest he will disengage and withdraw and some cues are:

 ·       turning head away

·        cries or becomes fussy

·        coughs

·        arches back

·        falls asleep

·        squirms

·        kicks

·        pulls away

·         goes pale or red in pallor

·        spits or vomits

·        turns eyes away

·        breathes rapidly

·        yawns

·        wrinkles forehead

·        frowns

·        hiccups

·        bottom lip may quiver


As with all things you baby is an individual and may not display all of these cues and certainly not all at once. Your baby may show a few or only one. Each and every baby will have an individual method of communicating their feelings and you will get to know your  baby and their engagement and non-engagement cues.


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