Life with a newborn would be a lot easier if babies were born knowing how to talk. "Hey, mom! The temperature in here is a little warm. Can you turn down the thermostat? Also, there's a scratchy tag in my shirt; if you could cut it off so it's not wigging me out by irritating me in a weird place I can't reach or do anything about, that would be awesome. Oh, and I'm hungry. Thanks!" They can't say all that in words, but often a newborn will let you know you're doing well as their parent in their own little newborn ways.
Right as I gave birth to my son and heard him cry, I remember feeling so upset that anything was bothering him, and wanting to do anything to avoid hearing him sound so flustered and upset again. Of course, that's impossible. However, over time I did figure out how to "read" him so that we could keep his crying to a minimum. I figured out which little expressions and gestures meant he was getting hungry, so I could avoid his most desperate, hangry cries (and all the boob-clawing that followed. Ugh.). We discovered that he had a specific face he'd make when pooping, so we could get his diaper ASAP even if there was no noise or smell. (We also learned to wait a couple of minutes after seeing it to avoid getting pooped on while changing it.) Little by little, we figured out the whole parenting-a-newborn thing, and got pretty good at it, based on our son's happy reactions.
Of course, all babies are different, and babies who were born early and/or who have special needs may not do the same things, even though their parents are also doing an incredible job. But if you've got a full-term, typically-developing baby and you're wondering if they approve of your parenting, keep an eye out for any of the following signs:
They'll Actually Stop Crying
Some babies cry more than others, and some for totally unexplained reasons even if their parents are doing everything perfectly and their needs are all met. But for the most part, if your baby is fed, dry, and warm, they'll reward you with a few moments of silence. Ahhhh.
They'll Make Adorable Little Coos
Before I had my son, I had totally forgotten about coos; the adorable sounds babies make before they officially start babbling and, eventually, talking. Babies typically coo when they're content, so if you're hearing little coos, it's basically your baby telling you you're crushing it at this whole "keeping your baby alive and happy" thing.
They'll Poop A Lot
Healthy poop is produced by healthy babies. So if your newborn is pooping frequently, or pooping a bunch whenever they do poop (if they're not an after-every-meal pooper), be reassured that they're getting enough to eat and are generally OK.
Even though newborn babies don't necessarily smile socially, they do smile when they feel good. After his first week, my little guy would break out into a series of adorable, twitchy little smiles every time he finished nursing, then drift off to sleep. Sweetest, most reassuring thing ever.
When my son was just an 8-week-old newborn, my husband and I were playing with him on his changing table when he let rip the tiniest, most adorable giggle I've ever heard in my life. Many babies don't laugh for the first time until a little bit after the newborn phase, but if your baby laughs a little early, it's pretty much the biggest compliment ever. For babies that little, giggles are a way of expressing happiness so big that smiles can no longer contain it.
They’ll Reach For You
Babies don't trust just anybody here on this brand-new-to-them planet. So if your little one starts to reach for you or grab onto you, that's a major compliment. It means they recognize you and know you're there to help them.
They’ll Drift Off To Sleep In Your Arms...
If a baby feels comfortable enough to sleep in your arms, it's 'cause they know you're good people, and you're looking out for them.
...Or While/After Eating...
When a newborn feels full and content enough to fall asleep, that's a sign that you totally nailed this whole mealtime thing. Props.
...Or On Your Chest
"This human feels comfy, safe, and smells nice. I'll sleep here," said happy, healthy newborns everywhere. Big kudos.
Basically They’ll Sleep A Lot
Even though they interrupt their parents' sleep a lot, newborns actually sleep a ton — around 16 or 17 hours a day, according to BabyCenter. So if a baby is well fed, dry, and comfortable enough to fall asleep every couple of hours or so, that means you're doing something very right.
They’ll Get Upset When You Try To Put Them Down
When a baby doesn't want to be put down, that isn't a sign of a "spoiled" baby. It's a sign of a baby who knows the person holding them is someone they can depend on. That's a huge compliment from a small person.
They’ll Grow So Fast You’ll Wonder Where The Time Is Going
I actually cried the first time I realized my son had outgrown his one of his little NB-sized outfits, just a couple of months after being born. (Yes, I was hormonal, but if you'd seen the tiny little bears on that onesie, you'd understand.) But ultimately, I accepted that it was a good sign: he was eating and sleeping enough to keep growing, because I was doing a good job as his mom. It sucks that they can't stay teeny forever, but a healthy, growing baby is fantastic proof that you're doing an incredible job.