Read your baby’s signals

Can you predict when she is about to start crying and interpret her gaze? Although every baby is different, babies share a universal language, a set of signals that tell us how our baby is coping with stimulation and when they have had enough or are becoming over stimulated.

Megan Faure, co-author of Baby Sense looks at some of the signals your baby and toddler will show you and how to interpret these signals.

I am happy – interact with me

When your baby is content and in a calm alert state, she is ready for interaction. In this state, the brain is ready to make connections, the mind ready to learn and your baby is emotionally ready to bond.

Newborn – your newborn will signal this state by making eye contact. Her hands will be open and relaxed and she will really look intently at your face. Her body is still.

Baby – your older baby may reach out for toys and examine books with intent. She will sit quietly on your lap while learning from her world.

Toddler – your toddler will show inquisitiveness but be contained and not overly busy. She will call you and may ask “what’s that…”

“I am starting to be overstimulated – leave me to calm down or remove the stimulus from my vision”

At a certain point, your baby will start to become a little disorganized and need a break from stimulation.

Newborn – newborns can only really interact and stay organized for a few minutes at a stretch. Your newborn may signal she has had enough, just by losing eye contact or by looking away.

Baby – older babies can organize their movements and turn away from the interaction. They may seem to lose interest and push toys away. Other babies may have very busy arm, and leg movements.

Toddler – this subtle signal is often missed in toddlers as toddlers who have had enough often become a little busier and interact more randomly as opposed to constructing interactions. Toddlers also start to use the word “No!” or “Not” firmly – signaling they have had enough

“I am over stimulated and cannot help myself – please help me to calm down”

If you miss the early signals of overstimulation and persist in stimulating your baby, your baby will start to give you very clear signals that enough is enough. You may need to help your baby calm down as very often over tired babies are susceptible to overstimulation.

Newborn – newborns who are overstimulated start to exhibit signals that we often associate with digestion or hunger, such as hiccups, blueness around the mouth and sucking on their hands.

Baby – facial expression begin to take precedence with grimaces and frowns. Your baby may also start to groan and whine with irritability. If your baby suck on her hands encourage this as it is an independent self-soothing measure.

Toddler- all those antisocial behaviors toddlers are so renowned for, such as nose-picking, bum scratching, hitting out and hyper active behavior are often signals that your toddler has had enough.

“I am over the edge and a responding with a clear signal – crying”

Newborn – colic is the classic response a newborn has to overstimulation. To deal with colic, swaddle your baby and decrease stimulation, even if this means rocking or holding your newborn to sleep. A sling is a wonderful way to create a contained quiet space to soothe your baby.

Baby – crying is the indicator that your baby has had more than enough. Take her to a quiet space and put her down to sleep. Sit with your baby until she is calm and help her to find self-soothing strategies such as sucking a dummy or thumb, holding a ‘doodoo’ blanky or humming to herself.

Toddler – chaos is the signal that your toddler is over the edge. Your toddler will become chaotic, busy and very whiney. Many toddlers resort to temper tantrums and dig their heels in. In this state, your toddler feels as vulnerable as you do. Do not respond to the behavior hysterically rather calmly interpret the tiredness and acknowledge the feeling. Use words to interpret your toddler’s behavior for her; “I know you want another story but you are also very tired.” Help your toddler to sleep, rest or find a quiet space.

Ask Megan Faure a question or buy Baby Sense from

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