Both first-time and experienced parents alike can agree that trying to figure out what their non-verbal baby is trying to tell them can be difficult. On top of being sleep deprived, giving hourly feedings, and changing impossibly full diapers, decoding cries might seem next to impossible. If you're scratching your head and wondering why your little one is fussy, don't give up hope just yet. Surprisingly, there are plenty of ways your baby is trying to tell you they're uncomfortable. Once you can pick up on their cues, you'll have a much easier time knowing how to respond.
When I became a mother, I felt completely clueless when it came to understanding what my cranky newborn was trying to tell me. Most days it felt like I was blindly throwing darts, hoping to find the right solution. But it seems employing the "hit or miss" method is simply one of the badges of parenthood you earn — or so I'm told. So if you don't quite know if your new bundle of joy is uncomfortable or just trying to figure out how their limbs work, you're not alone. Check out these ways your baby is telling you they're uncomfortable and say goodbye to guessing games.
1. Their Cries Are Nasal
If you were to ask me before I was parent if I could distinguish between different baby cries, I'd think you were nuts. But according to the experts at What To Expect, those sounds are how your baby is communicating. "A whiny, nasal, continuous cry that builds in intensity is usually baby's signal that they've had enough," the site noted. So if their squeaks turn into nasally sounds, they're probably uncomfortable.
2. They Sound Indifferent
When adults say "eh," it's usually to imply a lack of opinion about something. It's a bit different with babies, however. As Babble reported, if your baby is making an "eh" sound, it's because the muscles in their torso have tightened due to a bit of gas. Burping them or changing their position usually helps.
3. They Look Like They Smell Something
A professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkley, Dr. Alison Gopnik explained to The Bump what it means when your baby scrunches their face. "A scrunched-up face, accompanied by grunting noises [means] he's probably uncomfortable." Gopnik said. If you've ruled out burps and serious tummy troubles, they might just be working on a bowel movement.
4. They Rub Their Eyes
I thought I had my baby's routine all figured out. So when he seemed fussy, and it wasn't his scheduled nap time yet, I was confused. As it turns out, rubbing of the eyes and intermittent, soft cries mean your baby is uncomfortable and ready to sleep, as Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician, told Baby Center. So even if it isn't their typical time for shut-eye, take their cue.
5. They Squirm
I once thought my son was auditioning for Cirque du Soleil only to realize he was super uncomfortable, not an aspiring contortionist. "If a baby is uncomfortable, he'll typically squirm or arch his back," Elizabeth Pantley, an author and parenting expert, told Pregnancy.
6. Their Appetite Is Off
If your baby doesn't want to eat, they could just be restless due to something as simple as a wet diaper. According the University of Michigan Health System, a behavioral sign your baby is uncomfortable is if they are off their usual feeding schedule. Though they might just be cold or wet, trust your gut if you think their lack of appetite isn't temporary.
7. They Overexert Themselves
You know how bodybuilders look like they're about to pop a vein while lifting weights? When your little one is making the same face, they could be feeling physical discomfort. Pediatrician Dr. Cheryl Wu told The Bump that if your baby seems to be straining, they're uncomfortable due to constipation and this is the only way they know how to tell you. Additionally, a tight tummy can be a physical signal that your little one needs digestive help.