Is your baby trying to tell you something?
All babies are different, but they all have this one thing in common: Five distinctive cries to tell you what they need.
Babies cry, it's a fact. In the early days it's the only way they can communicate with you. They cry if they're hungry, scared, tired, in pain... Sometimes they cry when they're happy! But do these cries actually mean anything? Well it turns out your little newborn is actually very clever and has a series of "pre-cries" to communicate their needs with you. If you learn to read the cues and listen out, you should be able to work out what your baby needs before they move onto full blown tears of frustration. Sounds too good to be true? Read on to find out more...
Did you know your baby can communicate with you from just a few days old?
We've all been there, lulled into a false sense of security by our little angels. Just when you begin to feel smug that you have their feeding schedule down and they are sleeping quite well at night - BAM! They throw you a curve ball. Their prefect routine goes out of the window and they start crying, apparently for no reason. Sometimes the crying seems to go on for days! You just fed them so they can't be hungry. They've not long woken up, so they can't be tired. A nappy change has made it worse. Too hot, too cold... ARGH NOTHING WORKS FOR THIS CHILD - IT'S BEEN HOURS! And to rub salt in the wound, your friends are blessed with babies who rarely cry and seem content. All.The.Time.
My first was your classic "difficult" baby. She didn't sleep through, whatever I tried. She seemed to always be crying... I mean, I know babies cry but seriously? Her undiagnosed tongue tie didn't help, nor the fact the doctor wrongly told me she had a milk allergy (she didn't). I was a nervous, sleep deprived wreck and in the end put it down to colic. When I became pregnant again, I thought I had it in the bag this time. I convinced myself I'd learnt from my first and with baby number 2, James and I would be prepared! Oh yes, this parenting lark would be a doddle second time round. In my mind, our new addition would be sleeping through the night from 6 weeks, in a good four hourly breastfeeding routine and he wouldn't need to cry because I wouldn't be the novice I was as a first time mum, and second babies are easier... right? Wrong.
Constantly. And nothing I did made it better.
It was on one of my many 4am Google searches I came across an article by Priscilla Dunstan. She claimed all babies around the world have the same 5 pre-cries. Dunstan stated that she has a photographic memory for sounds and combining this with her experience of many years as an opera singer and mother, she began to recognise the same sounds in different babies. It was with desperate interest (and a little skepticism) that I read on and memorised these sounds to see if she was right. The next morning, armed with my notes, I put it into practice and made it my mission to understand my baby and what he was trying to tell me. I pricked up my ears and low and behold, I was able to determine his pre-cries and what they meant! It was an absolute light-bulb, dance-around-the-room, eureka moment. From that day on, I had a content baby who rarely full blown cried as I was able to meet his exact needs before he became upset and frustrated. This knowledge has come in very handy indeed for James and I since becoming newborn photographers. Being able to determine these pre-cries during a newborn photo session is invaluable beyond measure and can really help us achieve some of the beautiful, serene photos we produce for the family treasure. Some parents are amazed when we pass their baby back and say "she's still hungry" or "she's tired, let's get her off to sleep in this basket instead". We quite often get parents jokingly ask if we do night shifts, because their baby seems so calm in our presence. Just last week, one tired mummy said I must be a Baby Psychic as I seemed to know what her newborn needed before she cried. I explained the theory behind learning pre-cries and promised her I would write a blog post - so, Tired Mummy, this one's for you!
How to determine the pre-cry and the five cries you need to know
Here it is in a nutshell - the five pre-cries you'll need to know. Please do use this blog post as a point of reference, I have also included links at the bottom of the article to learn more. Leave us a comment below if this works for you! We would love to hear your thoughts.
• "Neh or Nah" = I'm hungry
Baby will make this sound to let you know they're hungry. Caused by the natural sucking reflex, watch out for baby's tongue going to the roof of their mouth and making a thicker sounding "neh / nah" sounding cry. Listen out for the "N" in particular at the beginning. Babies go through many growth spurts in their first weeks and months, and some days will need a lot more milk than others. If you ignore this cry because you don't think they should be hungry yet, it will soon turn into full blown tears of frustration for your little one. Perhaps it's not time yet for their next bottle, or they've only just finished a marathon breastfeed, but try them on a little more milk and you may be surprised! Go with it and listen to your baby's ques. During a newborn photo session, babies will feel more often than usual so please be prepared with extra bottles, or expect more frequent breastfeeds.
• "Eh Eh Eh" half cry = Wind me
Quick and repetitive, this is baby's way of trying to rid themselves of wind in their tummy and often happens not long after a feed. Catching this pre-cry before it develops into full blown crying is important as it is much harder to wind a baby when they're tense, crying and upset. This cry may also be accompanied with baby's fists being balled and held close to their face. Winding a relaxed baby at this stage is a much easier, calmer experience and will stop the wind travelling down to their lower tummy, causing more tears. Listen out for The "E" at the beginning of this repetitive little pre-cry to wind baby on their cue. During our photo sessions, we listen out for this one in particular when posing your baby to ensure they are comfortable during their session.
• "AEIRRRHHH" cry = Tummy ache!
If you didn't manage to burp baby at the "Eh Eh" stage above, you'll soon hear this cry. Often mistaken with colic, this cry is a lot more painful to hear and you can tell your baby is quite distressed. Lower tummy gas can be really uncomfortable and this cry may also be accompanied with baby's legs pulling up toward their tummy, a little red face and their fists balled and flying. Gentle clockwise tummy massage, tiger in the tree position and bicycling their little legs can help relieve trapped wind in their lower tummy. If your baby experiences lower wind pain during a photo session, we will stop the session for a while so Mummy or Daddy can cuddle and relieve their wind. A newborn photo session can take up to four hours as we allow plenty of time for cuddles and comfort!
• "Wow or Ow" grizzle = I'm tired!
Often accompanied with all the usual sleepy signs, this pre-cry can be quite easy to pick up on. The sound is formed by baby making a yawn motion - the oval shape of their mouth creates a drawn out and repetitive "Wow" or "Oww" sound which signals "Mummy, I'm tired and that's why I'm a little grumpy". This is time to take baby away from the stimulation and let them drift off. Ignoring this cry may result in baby becoming over tired and harder to settle, which can be frustrating for both of you! This is our signal during a newborn session to shush and calm baby in a comfortable position where they will likely drift off into a deep and calm sleep.
• "Heh Heh Heh" = uncomfortable
Often quieter, but similar to "Eh" and "Neh" - listen out for the "H" sound at the beginning of this pre-cry. This could mean baby is too warm or cold. A full nappy perhaps, or in an uncomfortable position. Check for annoying clothing labels and feel baby's tummy to check their body temperature (never the hands or feet as this isn't accurate). If we hear baby making this sound during a session, we quickly change their set up to make them more comfortable. All babies are different and what some find comfortable, others don't! This is the beauty of being newborn photographers, and it certainly keeps us on our toes!
So there you go!
I really hope this helps if you are interested in learning more about your baby's cries - Let us know how you get on by adding a facebook comment below. We'd love to hear your thoughts and please do share if you feel your friends will find this useful!
Useful links related to this article:
More info & FAQ on our newborns photo sessions: [click here]
*Note: This is not a clinically proven study and is not backed up by scientific evidence. This is a self help article and is NOT intended as a medical diagnosis. If you are concerned about your baby's crying, please seek medical help immediately by calling NHS 111 service. A high pitched cry, a weak cry, or crying accompanied with a fever, floppiness, stiffness, a rash or any other form of discomfort is not to be ignored and should be met with medical advice right away.
Thank you for reading, and I hope this helps! Lauren x