What A Baby’s Body Language Actually Means

By Nick Hadji 10 months ago

1. Arching their back

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Babies cannot communicate verbally, but they do have body language signs that we can look out for to know what they need/ want. When a baby arches their back it can be a sign of stomach discomfort. It could be that your baby has acid reflux. Babies' stomachs are still developing, and so if they arch their back just take a pause while feeding and rub their back.Original content sourced from Femanin.com

2. Grabbing their ear

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You may notice that a baby keeps grabbing their ear. Aside from exploring new parts of their body, it can also be a sign that your baby has a cold or an ear infection which is making it feel irritated or hurt. Ear grabbing is also a really common sign that your baby is teething.

3. Rocking/ head banging

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A baby may rock themselves for comfort. It is a soothing technique that you will probably notice usually happens before bedtime, or when your baby is tired. Rocking themselves is very common and it is a natural technique your baby will use to soothe themselves.

4. Leg kicking

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Frequent leg kicking within babies is also extremely common and it can be a good sign - it may mean that your baby is happy! Aside from displaying a good mood,  it is also a natural way of helping muscles in their legs to develop and grow before your baby moves on to crawling or walking.

5. Fist clenching

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Fist clenching within babies is a primitive reflex, it is a habit that is established in the womb and they continue for once they are born for a few months. The reflex will disappear at around the 5-6 month stage. It can signal that a baby is hungry or slightly distressed.

6. Frequent hiccups

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If a baby is hiccupping very frequently, it is usually nothing to worry about at all. It's super common and a natural mechanism in our bodies. It will usually happen when your baby has overfed or they have taken milk very quickly. The hiccups should only last around 10 minutes each time.

7. Jerking their arms

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You may notice that your baby sometimes jerks their arms or waves their arms very suddenly. This again is a natural response called a micro flex. It is a protective instinct and it will usually happen if your baby has been slightly startled perhaps by a noise or a light that has made them jump.

8. Eye rubbing

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We can all probably guess what eye rubbing means. Even adults do it too! This is a way to show their tiredness and say 'Okay, it's nap time'. But, if the eye is red in any way it could be a sign of an allergy or infection which is irritating your baby and making them rub it to itch their eye.

9. Quick breathing when they're smiling

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Quick breathing, when they're smiling, may mean that the baby is super excited and cannot probably control their emotions. If they are not smiling, your baby may have been startled or could be a little bit stressed. If their heartbeat returns to normal very quickly this is usually a very normal thing!

10. Scrunched up knees

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Your baby will be trying out all kinds of things with their legs and arms. But consistently scrunching up their knees may mean that your baby has wind. Too much gas can be very uncomfortable for the baby, or they may be alleviating discomfort from constipation. Cycling your baby's legs and burping them can help!

11. Turning their face away

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Your baby turning their face away could be their way of saying no. If it happens while you are feeding then it may just be the case that they are full up and do not want any milk right now. It is also something your baby will do to check their surroundings, or when they have been distracted.

12. Sucking their fingers

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If a baby is sucking their fingers, more often than not it means 'I'm hungry!'. Their fingers replicate the nipple or the milk bottle and so your baby is trying to suck for milk. If your baby is not hungry then they may be using this as a way to soothe themselves, associating feeding time as a time of comfort.

13. Smacking lips

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When a baby smacks their lips together it usually means that they are hungry. When a baby is hungry they usually start to form the same motions with their mouths. So when they start to smack their lips, this is when you know that it is time to give your baby some food.

14. Grunting

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Grunting can be a way for your baby to experiment with sounds. But usually, grunting is a signal to tell us something as it is a noise that usually means they are uncomfortable in some way. It could be when they are constipated, or they are pooping. Cycling their legs to stimulate the intestines and ease the flow can help.

15. Splayed fingers

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When your baby has splayed or pointed fingers it could be that your baby is tense. Often rigid movements are a sign of tension in babies, when they are feeling tense their bodies are also tense. It may be that your baby is in a new environment and they have a lot going on around them.

16. Grabbing and holding onto your finger

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Babies love to grab fingers and hold on to them tight. Now, this is usually a good sign. It often means that the baby is comfortable with you or the person that they are grabbing the finger of. It can also mean that they are happy and content in their environment at that moment.

17. Staring into the distance

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When your baby starts staring wide-eyed into the distance (much like with many adults) it's a sign that they are tired. When you see this it means that your baby wants some quiet time and it is time to put them down for a nap or sit quietly with them whilst comforting them.

18. Squirming

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When your baby squirms it can mean that they are overwhelmed or unhappy, They are basically telling you that they need a break. Try taking some time out, sitting quietly with your baby or even putting on some of your baby's favorite relaxing music to make them feel more at ease.

19. Smooth movements

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Smooth movements (in comparison to rigid movements) whether this is with your baby's fingers or arms/ legs can mean that your baby is happy and relaxed.  They are feeling super comfortable and so their body is also feeling relaxed which is displayed through smooth movements.

20. Flapping arms

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Flapping arms is a very common thing that babies do when they are excited. Babies do not have full control over their limbs yet, and so when they are excited, one way this is expressed is through movement. But this can be fairly sporadic, shown by flapping arms!

21. Stiffened body

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When a baby tenses and stiffens up it can be a sign of tension. Often, when this happens it is a sign that your baby is feeling overstimulated. For example, if they are in a new place or with new people you may notice this kind of body language more, and your baby is not relaxed.

22. Reaching out

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When a baby reaches out to you it can indicate their curiosity. Everything is a new experience for a bay and when they want to engage or explore more, they will reach out to signal that they are ready to play or to learn. This is the chance to stimulate your baby and interact with them or show them something new.

23. Scrunched up face

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Babies are very expressive when it comes to their faces. Their mood and emotions can often be seen in their face. When they scrunch up their face it is often due to frustration or displeasure at something. They may be attempting to do something without success which can be super frustrating for your baby.

24. Sticking out their tongue

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When a baby sticks out their tongue it usually means that they are experimenting with their mouth. They are navigating their tongue, and new sounds and sensations. It is a way of developing and exploring new movements which in time will lead to your baby making more and more kinds of sounds. It can also be a sign that your baby is hungry!

25. Blowing raspberries

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Blowing raspberries is a super cute thing little babies do as they start developing their motor skills. They are experimenting with sounds and discovering that they can make new sounds by attempting different movements with their mouths. It's a good sign of progression from a baby!

26. Wriggling

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Wriggling with babies and children in general is what happens when they are in discomfort, or feeling impatient because they do not like something. They are reacting to something which they have not liked, and it's a signal that your baby wants to relax!

27. Holing hands together

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Babies often grasp their hands together. And aside from being a way to discover their own limbs and work on motor skills, it is also a sign that your baby is soothing themselves and they are holding their own hands as a natural way to comfort themselves.

28. Limpness

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When your baby feels more limp than their usual sturdy selves it can be because they are over tired. Usually, babies try and hold themselves and their own bodies, so when they do not do this it can mean that they are super tired or may even not be feeling very well!

29. Extending limbs

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When your baby extends their limbs, perhaps quickly or sporadically it can be a sign of excitement. Your baby does not know how to channel emotion and it will be apparent in their body language. It is also a way that your baby is developing muscles and starting new phases of movement.

30. Avoiding eye contact

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Your baby may avoid eye contact when they feel like they are overwhelmed and overstimulated. It is a way to avoid further stimulation from people. They may be tired and in need of a break if your baby does this. It can also be a sign that your baby is feeling a little bit shy too!

31. What your toddler is trying to tell you: if they want all their stuffed animals, they're scared

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We know how confusing it is to see just how many stuffed animals a toddler likes on their bed, to the point there's no space left for them - but if your toddler is dragging the whole zoo to bed with them, it could be because they're scared of something. These familiar objects around them makes them feel more secure about monsters in the closet.

32. What you can do

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It's okay to let your toddler surround themselves with what makes them feel comfortable - you shouldn't try to take all the animals away from them. It also won't work if you open the closet door to show them there isn't a monster (they'll just think you can't see it). Let them sleep with their animals as long as they need.

33. They're anxious if they hide their face in their shirt

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We've all seen that moment a normally bouncing-off-the-walls kid goes suddenly quiet and shy and pulls their shirt up over their face because a stranger has come into the house. This is because they're anxious about meeting new people. Even as adults we understand social anxiety - we just can't unfortunately hide our faces in our shirts anymore.

34. What you can do

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In new situations that make toddlers feel anxious, they look to the parents they trust for guidance on how to act. So you want to make sure you're being smiling and relaxed with a new person or house guest. Gently make your toddler shake off their shirt from their face and say hello!

35. They want privacy if they hide to poop

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When your toddler is still wearing a diaper and hasn't moved onto potty training yet, you may have noticed them trying to hide while they take a poop. Maybe they duck down behind the table or chair. This is a good sign because it means they've noticed adults need bathroom privacy for their business, so they're copying that.

36. What you can do

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You should definitely encourage your toddler's need for privacy - but you need to steer them to the bathroom! It's fine to teach them they should look for privacy to do their business, but you don't want them growing up thinking behind the couch is the spot. So when they need to go, shuffle them to the bathroom and let them have their privacy there until you potty train.

37. They're not feeling themselves if they throw a tantrum

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Tantrums are one thing every parent DOES NOT look forward to in the toddler years, and you might not fully understand why they're acting out. But if they throw a tantrum, they're telling you that they're not feeling themselves. It's a physical reaction to something they're feeling strongly, like 'I'm really bored' or 'you're not giving me attention'.

38. What you can do

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You should never try to fight back with a toddler in the middle of a tantrum, and a good first step is validating their feelings (even though it might be annoying to do so if they're misbehaving). It can be as easy as saying 'Okay I understand you're bored' or whatever else is going on. But in other situations you might need to wait until they stop instead of engaging. Make sure validate feelings while controlling reactions ("It's okay to feel bored but it's not okay to scream about it").

39. They want it NOW if they tantrum when you're doing something for them

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What can be even more annoying in the tantrum department is if your toddler has asked you for something, you're doing it for them, and they tantrum anyway! Babies scream and cry when they're waiting for something as a matter of survival (they need to be fed or changed). Toddlers just do it for the heck of it. This is just your toddler growing up and learning that feeling we all know: instant gratification.

40. What you can do

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You definitely shouldn't speed up what you're doing, or try to be faster in general to avoid a tantrum from your toddler. The key here is to teach your toddler patience - but they need to understand what you're doing. So if you can't fulfil their request yet, explain what you're doing first, step by step.

41. They get possessive of you with other children

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If you're seen interacting with other kids (whether young family members, kids in the park or your friend's kids) your toddler might act out and say things to the other kids, like "my mommy/daddy". This is a sign they want you to give them more attention. This reaction might be worse if you've been working a lot recently or been busy with other things.

42. What you can do

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You need to reassure your toddler that you're there for them, no matter what else is going on. But you also need to help them to understand that you're allowed to speak to other children. You can explain to them that of course they're your number one, but you have to say hello to other children sometimes.

43. They cross their arms because they might be nervous

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Standing or sitting with arms folded has become a sort of universal grumpy symbol - it's negative body language, and in a toddler, you might think it means they're sulking about something. It could actually mean they're nervous - as we know, we bring our arms around ourselves when we feel we need to protect ourselves.

44. What you can do

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This all depends on the situation that's causing them to fold their arms. If it's something new you've brought home (like a new toy), give them chance to get used to it. If it's a person or social situation, speak positively to them and let them copy your positive body language.

45. If they avoid eye contact, they're embarrassed

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When babies avoid eye contact with you, it can be because they're overwhelmed with attention and need to tap out. When toddlers avoid eye contact, they're at an age where they've developed self-awareness, so they can now feel shame. If they've done something naughty, they'll likely avoid eye contact.

46. What you can do

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You need to let them know they've done wrong, but help them know how to fix it. Even if they're not looking at you, make it clear what they did was wrong - "No we don't throw away Mommy's favorite chocolate!" - and then offer a solution for how they can - and should - fix their mistake.

47. Pushing you away could be playful

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It might feel weird to see your doting toddler start to push you away and run away from you as though they're sick of the sight of you, but really it's a good sign they're being playful and realizing their growing independence. Your toddler is telling you that they're growing up and can play without your input.

48. What you can do

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It can be difficult to realize this one, but it's nothing personal! The best thing you can do is let your toddler explore on their own - from a watchful distance, and as long as they're not doing anything dangerous, of course - and then they'll come crawling back when they need feeding and they're feeling tired!

49. They're flapping their arms

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This is literally what every adult wishes they could do in a situation that makes them uncomfortable. This is your toddler freaking out and having their fight or flight kick in - and they honestly believe flapping their arms might fly them out of there! It's an indicator they're in a bit more distress than a normal crying tantrum!

50. What you can do

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One key thing to remember is that kids will pick up on your own body language, so you don't want to be moving about flapping while they are too! Have calm and slow body language, and also think actions rather than words - your toddler isn't going to be listening when they're having a melt down, so just hold them and make them feel secure!