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  • Writer's pictureTori Smith


As they grow, babies become pretty resourceful when it comes to communicating their wants and needs. There are some tools you can learn and practice to enhance their ability to communicate. This may be of particular interest for parents who have exceptionally fussy babies or who have pre-verbal or non-verbal children displaying frustration, rage, violence or self-harm when attempting to express themselves.

Dunstan Baby Language

Dunstan Baby Language is a set of distinct universal sounds that newborn babies make, and the theory is that each sound correlates to one of five baby needs – hunger, sleep, discomfort, lower gas or burp. You, as a parent or caregiver, can learn to listen to and decipher those sounds and respond accordingly. If you can learn to do this effectively, there’s a good chance your baby will cry less often and less intensely because those needs are getting met sooner. This one is important to learn when your baby is in early infancy. It is said that if you do not begin to respond appropriately to the corresponding sounds, that the baby will stop using them in such a distinguishable way, simply because it’s not working for them. It’s like if you were to throw a ball for your dog but they never retrieve it, eventually you would stop throwing the ball. Is one of us supposed to be a dog in this scenario? Yes. Who is the dog? You are. (Sorry, I couldn’t help sneaking in a quick When Harry Met Sally reference. Moving on.)

Elimination Communication

Elimination Communication is when parents learn to recognize and respond to the body language babies display when they need to pee or poop. Parents who practice this will forego using diapers some or all of the time. Instead, they carefully observe the baby’s signals for needing to relieve themselves, at which point they can move the baby to a toilet, sink or container. Parents can also offer the toilet periodically, rather than waiting for the signals or relying completely on diapers. As the baby grows, they can also begin to use deliberate sounds and signs to communicate their eliminatory needs. It takes a level of dedication, especially in the beginning, but many people have success with it. I know it sounds outrageous to some, but you have to remember, your baby is already sending you cues, like rubbing their eyes when tired or chewing on their hands when hungry. For a parent with an extended parental leave who plans to spend a lot of time at home, this is absolutely realistic and worth investigating further before knocking it.

Baby Sign Language

Baby Sign Language can be an effective communication tool for babies who can mimic simple gestures on cue, such as clapping and waving bye-bye. There are signs for requesting things like milk, food and water, as well as indicating when the baby is tired, wet or wanting more of something. With this one, you want all caregivers to learn the signs and start demonstrating the appropriate sign to signal the corresponding action. For example, every time the baby is taken out of their highchair, you will sign “all done” immediately before the action so they start to make the connection to the meaning of the sign. When used consistently, the baby will begin to make the associations and use the signs themselves. When they are able to communicate their needs and wants in this way, there is less need for them to fuss, cry and yell to get your attention, and this can begin to happen as early as six months of age.

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