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Understanding Your Baby’s Cries

Posted on 8/06/2012 in Pregnancy & Baby & Well-Being

There is a lot for new parents to learn as soon as their baby is born. Suddenly,
maternity clothes, maternity dresses, choosing a pram and car seat and preparing the nest for the imminent arrival are a thing of the past, and you are consumed by the demands and delights of a brand new little person who relies on you... for everything!

While many new parents find the cries of their new baby somewhat disturbing, many take solace in learning that babies can actually communicate with their parents via the sounds they make while crying. A number of experts argue that a baby’s cries are not made up of random and indecipherable sounds; instead, a parent can learn so much about what their child wants or needs by interpreting their cries.

The world renowned Dunstan Baby Language System is founded on this premise. Here we take a look at some of the most commonly heard sounds when babies cry and what they mean, according to the Dunstan System.

“Neh” = “I’m hungry!”

The ‘neh or ‘nah’ sound is a cue that the baby is hungry and needs a feed. The most important thing to listen for is the ‘n’ sound at the beginning of the cry, as this distinguishes hungry from other messages communicated through cries.

“Owh” = “I’m tired”

When a baby is tired, the sound that they make while crying can be likened to the sound heard when a person yawns. You are likely to notice that the baby’s mouth forms an oval shape and the ‘owh’ sound will indicate that they are ready for you to help them off to sleep.

“Eh” = “Burp me”

It makes sense that an ‘eh’ sound is heard when a baby needs to release wind through burping, because this sound occurs through the tightening of the muscles in the baby’s chest. It is not uncommon for a repetitive ‘eh-eh-eh-eh’ sound to be heard.

“Eairh” = “I have gas”

It can be helpful to try to think of the ‘eairh’ sound as sounding liking the word ‘air’. When a baby is heard making this sound, it is typically communicating that it has gas trapped in its digestive system and is seeking relief. Parents and experts often say that the sound deepens and becomes more urgent as the baby’s abdomen muscles tighten.

Quite often, the ‘eairh’ sound is heard if a baby was not previously burped.

“Heh” = “I am not comfortable”

A breathy ‘heh’ sound will often give you clues that your baby is uncomfortable. There are many possible reasons for a baby experiencing discomfort, including a wet or soiled nappy, or that they are too hot or too cold, but whatever the reason, it is likely that they will let you know with the ‘heh’ sound, which may take the form of a repetitive ‘heh-heh-heh’ or ‘ha-ha-ha’.

Understanding the different sounds that babies make when they cry and what each means is useful to parents, particularly when parents so often feel helpless and unable to discern what their baby wants or needs. Of course, there are a number of strategies that can be used in an effort to pacify and settle a distressed baby, but understanding some of the common complaints of babies and the associated sounds heard through their cries, is empowering for many parents.


  • Kristie | Monday, 11 June 2012
    I watched the Dunstan Video which teaches you the Dunstan Baby Lanugage and I must say it help me sooo much. I was really able to understand my daughters cries and i found I was able to settle her more quickly as I could identify what the problem was alot sooner. I would certainly recommend it to anyone.

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