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Decoding the Silent Talk: Babies’ Staring and Body Language Cues

Many parents tend to believe that crying is the only way their baby can communicate with them. Why wouldn’t they? It seems like the only sound a baby makes is a crying sound. Yes, it’s definitely the noisiest and the most noticeable, but if you really take the time to observe all the little ways your baby is trying to communicate, including hunger cues, you will be surprised by the many different stares, expressions, and overall body language that all serve as cues and gestures to communicate with their mothers or other primary caregivers.

Here are a few common gestures that are commonly reported by parents or primary caregivers:

  • Opening their mouth or putting their hand on their lips could mean early hunger. How else could they tell you they are hungry? They probably did this first, we didn’t notice so they decided crying would certainly catch our attention.
  • Rubbing their eyes or staring vacantly with glassy eyes could mean they are overtired or generally fatigued. Similar to us parents! Again, if we missed this cue it’s probably why they got hysterical and started crying.
  • Looking away when you come close to them or having hiccups could mean that your baby is feeling slightly overstimulated. When a new baby comes into our circle, we all want to play with them and make funny faces at them. For a baby though, this can be a lot which may make them look away to take a break.
  • Frowning more than usual, making grunting sounds or bearing down usually indicates that your baby needs to poop or can feel their food moving through their little bellies.

Babies are a lot more observant than we give them credit for and that’s likely because as adults a lot of our main form of communication is by speaking. However, just like we indicate different things with our nonverbal communication, so do babies and they start earlier than you think! Ever feel like a baby is just kind of watching your every move? They will gaze at things for a long time, almost like they need to stare at something. So why is it that they love to stare? This is because everything is new to them and this is how they truly become familiar with you and their surroundings. As adults, this becomes more natural to us but our little ones love to make us smile with their long baby stares.

There are many reasons why this is so common and we will work through a few of these. First, it’s important to remember that this is completely normal.

Below are some simple reasons for their staring:

  1. They are learning to see :
  2. Did you know that babies are considered legally blind when they are born? They have 20/200 vision which means they can see up to 8-12 inches away but nothing beyond that. When you bring your face close or are in their proximity of course this would make them look at you even more as they try to focus and learn your face.

  3. Babies just love faces :
  4. Your little one wants to look at faces, especially their mothers! This is how they feel connected to you and create a bond.

  5. They are curious about their new world:
  6. Babies love to explore and are just curious by nature. Them being able to stare Babies are curious little explorers. Staring allows them to take in the new sights, colours, and patterns around them, which is crucial for their brain development.

  7. Attracted to new colours and patterns :
  8. Bright colours always catch our eyes so of course babies too like high contrast colours. This is why you will notice books for babies are often black and white. These books are very stimulating for them and keep them staring and engaged.

  9. Early Communication :
  10. Before smiling or interacting socially, babies communicate by staring. It’s their way of trying to understand and connect with the environment.

  11. Tired But Curious :
  12. Sometimes, babies stare when they’re tired but find the world too fascinating to close their eyes. It’s a sign of their curiosity and eagerness to explore.

  13. Taking a Break :
  14. If a lot is happening around them, babies may stare as a way of taking a little break to process all the new sensations.

When Should I Be Worried as a Parent?

We always recommend to all parents that it’s best to always trust your instincts and contact your doctor when you have specific questions about your loved ones. While we feel that staring is usually normal, we know that there are always exceptions. A common report we find is that if you can’t grab your little one’s attention and they seem to just be staring into space for 30 seconds then it may be worth consulting with a healthcare professional. It is good to rule out with them that this is not a seizure your baby is having.

Hopefully, this information has served you well in understanding your little one better. Decoding the silent talk may seem hard at first but we do it all the time in our daily lives. Remember, babies typically stare as a communication strategy. Them starting to smile and interact can take some time to start so don’t be sad if your baby stares and frowns at you more than you expected. You are very interesting to your baby and they are just trying to make sense of the new world around them! Did you ever have a friend tell you their baby would start crying because they were wearing a hat? Well, it’s because your baby is confused and trying to visually understand what has happened. They don’t know what a hat is, just that you look different and a familiar comfort seems to have changed in their world. It is that simple but as we mentioned before, we encourage you to always seek professional medical assistance if you are worried about your little one. For more information on decoding the staring and body language cues of a baby, do touch base with the EuroKids website.

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