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Body Language

Baby Body Language

Want to know what baby is saying?

Baby's rubbing his eyes - what's he trying to tell you?

The May 2011 issue of PT asks the question: What are the 6 clues to charecter?

The author delves into a deeper understanding of how we can interpret our children's personality traits to better understand them as people - as well as gather some indications of what they'll be like as they age.

One of the more interesting markers was the ability to achieve intimacy - or from bonds with other human beings - which is directly related to our earliest interactions and levels of comfort with our parents or primary caregivers.

Moms, I know what you are thinking:

"As if I didn't have enough to feel guilty about, now I have to worry about ruining their ability to connect with others. I'm scarring them for life."

We have all had those moments as parents, when you are convinced you have made a mistake so monumental, so glaring and horrific that it will take 40 years and a huge amount of therapy to overcome. Mommy guilt is a unique animal - and we all suffer from it.

Yours truly is still reeling from the great Montessori vs. Public school debate of 2011, trying to decide whether an only child is a lonely child and consistently debating the negative and long lasting effects of Plants vs. Zombies on the 6 year old brain.


So, what's a parent to do? As human beings, our first communications with those around us are all non-verbal. Surely you have never heard a 3 day old baby ask for a nappy change? No, babies communicate largely via body language for the first year. And because it can be confusing (especially when sleep deprived) - babies cry, squirm and fuss trying to get their points across -we often misinterpret what they are trying to say.

Getting a firm grasp on what baby is trying to tell you will go a long way to fostering that deep, unabated bond between caregiver and child. For some women, this bond is instant - for others, it takes time, patience and (quite frankly) a little work.

By paying attention to baby's body language, you will help facilitate that bond in a much quicker fashion - thereby developing the level of intimacy your baby needs to feel secure, loved and safe.

Understanding much of what babies are attempting to communicate rests in the realization that these movements are instinctual - they are the result of eons of evolution. Humans are born with the ability to communicate - but not with the capabilities of spoken language. Language is man-made, a byproduct of the human circumstance, born out of advancement and necessity - not imbedded in our DNA the way non-verbal communication is.

For instance, most of us are familiar with the "startle reflex" common in babies. Also known as the "Moro reflex" this is a phenomenon that will disappear from baby's repertoire by the age of four months - as they adjust to life outside the womb. During periods of "startle" baby will grasp at the air with palms up and thumbs flexed out - often with their legs positioned in a similar fashion. Most observers will recognize these movements as a result of fear, and adjust their actions accordingly.

Certainly, there are times when a dish breaks or a dog barks - and baby will be startled. Not much we can do about that. Yet it does make me worry about children that spend these formative months in chaotic environments - what do their futures hold? What damage is being done in these scant 16 weeks that will impact the rest of their lives - perhaps leaving them with a diminished ability to trust or connect with others?

Here are several other key ways in which baby communicates his needs and wants are listed. Some may seem obvious - but remember, babies speak an ancient language - and adults have adapted and rely more heavily on verbal indicators, paying less attention to the non-verbal ways in which we communicate.

Turning of the head: Baby turns his head away from an area of boredom, disinterest or overstimulation. When you see this - you'll know its time to switch gears.

Rubbing eyes - Often accompanied by a big yawn (or two), rubbing the eyes indicates fatigue. Studies have shown that the act of rubbing one's eyes has a calming effect on the heart rate, slowing us down literally and figuratively as we prepare for a visit to Sleepytown.

Ear Tugs - As in adults, when one part of our body touches another (rubbing chin, twirling hair, tugging on ears) - it is an indicator that the individual needs comforting. In an effort to comfort themselves, whether preparing for sleep or disengaging from a particular situation - babies will rub those ears as a way to calm their emotions.

It's easy to recognize these movements and gestures - often more so than interpreting their meaning. Of course, all babies (and people!) are different, so as you and your child get to know one another, you will begin to understand their normal set of behaviors - effectively establishing their baseline.

Using the basics of baselining in conjunction with learning to identify and establish specific non-verbal cues in communication will improve your connectivity abilities in life - a precious skill to pass to the next generation.

Janine Driver is the author of the NY Times Bestseller YOU SAY MORE THAN YOU THINK: A 7 DAY PLAN FOR USING THE NEW BODY LANGUAGE TO GET WHAT YOU WANT, available at and other fine retailers.

Interested in having Janine speak at your next event? Visit her website, for information!

About the Author
Janine Driver

Janine Driver is a popular media guest, sales trainer, retired Federal Law Enforcement Officer, and president of the Body Language Institute.

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