Baby development

Baby body language: 3 common moves decoded

Most of your baby’s cues will be unique to her, but this common baby body language is shared by babes around the world.

Photo: iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

1. Pulling legs up to tummy

What does it mean?
Accompanied by fussing or crying, this baby body language is almost always a sign of pain — often normal gas pains. Colicky babies usually pull up their legs when they scream.

What to do
Try burping your baby, or hold her in a position that helps ease her pain. Many babies like to be placed tummy-down on your lap while you rub her back.

2. Turning head away

What does it mean?
It could be that you’re between what you’re doing and what your baby needs at the moment. “If you’re shaking a rattle and the baby turns his head away, that is a huge message: ‘I can’t move my body but I can turn my head and avert my eyes to say, please stop doing that,'” explains Mary Gordon, founder and president of Roots of Empathy.

What to do
Stop what you’re doing and try something different. If that doesn’t work, this baby body language could be that your baby simply needs a break from playing. Try a walk or quiet cuddle.

3. Arching back

What does it mean?
She’s protesting with a little more gusto, which might mean you’ve missed earlier cues. Sometimes you can’t avoid triggering this full-on rebellion: Sunscreen has to be applied before you go to the park and she has to wear her seatbelt in the stroller.

What to do
If what you’re doing isn’t essential, stop. If it is (for safety reasons), be loving and playful to get the job done. “Turn it into a song or game,” suggests Gordon. “Explain gently, ‘I know you hate this, but this is what we’re doing.'”

A version of this article appeared in our July 2012 issue with the headline “Read my…feet,” pp. 42-43.

Read more: 
Fussy baby: Is it colic?>
The benefits of baby sign language>
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