What is Your Baby Saying? Decode the Secret Language of Babies

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  • May 2, 2014

What is Your Baby Saying? Decode the Secret Language of Babies

What if there was a way to know what your baby needed and be able to respond to their cues in the most efficient way possible, minimizing fuss and tantrums? What if you could speak your baby’s language? Wouldn’t that be nice?

Priscilla Dunstan says that she can and that she can teach you too, as she has taught countless other mothers.

Priscilla always had a highly evolved photographic memory for sound. When she was a toddler she would play back songs on her family’s piano after hearing them once. She could hear things that others did not, a “second language” of moods and vibrational frequencies not picked up by regular ears.

When she became a mother she began to hear different sounds in her son’s cries. She thought they were unique to her baby, but then heard the same sound cues from other babies she encountered.

She began to study these various sounds and isolated them to five identifiable cries that she says all babies make based on their reflex responses for certain bodily functions and needs. She turned this into the Dunstan Baby Language (DBL).

Upon working with Brown University for a crying study, Priscilla discovered that the sounds she was hearing were pre-cries rather than full cries (consider a “full cry” the hysterical wailing we all fear). If not responded to quickly, all of these pre-cries will turn into full cries. In addition, if these individual cries are not responded to individually that after three months the baby will cease to distinguish between them and will have one universal cry for all sensations of discomfort.

With this method, Priscilla has taught thousands of parents to recognize and respond to their baby’s needs faster and more intuitively, increasing trust and strengthening bonding.

While I should mention there has been a great deal of skepticism from the scientific community, I have seen the method in action and can personally attest to its merit. Last year, I was a live-in birth and postpartum doula for a friend who successfully learned the DBL and was able to interpret her baby’s cries from birth based on watching the dated Oprah video below. I also have other friends and acquaintances who have had great luck with the DBL both alone and combined with Elimination Communication (EC).

Be a skeptic if you will, but if you could actually know what your baby was feeling and how to respond the most efficiently way  in order to increase both comfort levels, wouldn’t you try?

Check out this Oprah video and see if you begin to hear these sounds around babies:


 These are the five identifiable sounds she claims all babies make from  birth until three months (and longer if you respond to them):

1. Neh – I’m hungry.

An infant uses the sound reflex “Neh” to communicate its hunger. The sound is produced when the sucking reflex is triggered, and the tongue is pushed up on the roof of the mouth. When you hear this it’s milk time!

2. Owh – I’m sleepy.

This is based on a pre-yawn, and the baby’s mouth opens wide into an oval. An infant uses the sound reflex “Owh” to communicate that they are tired. Try laying your baby down or transition them into a more restful position and environment.

3. Heh – I’m uncomfortable.

An infant uses the sound reflex “Heh” to communicate stress or discomfort and usually is produced by a response to a skin reflex. Check your baby’s temperature (they might be too hot or too cold), see if they need a diaper change, or see if there is anything else in the immediate environment causing undue stress.

4. Eh – I have upper gas.

An infant uses the sound reflex “Eh” to communicate that it needs to be burped. The sound is produced when a large bubble of trapped air is caught in the chest and the reflex is trying to release this out of the mouth. Burp your baby!

5. Eairh – lower gas

An infant uses the sound reflex “Eairh” to communicate they have lower gas or an upset stomach. The sound is produced when trapped air from a belch is unable to release and travels to the stomach where the muscles of the intestines tighten to force the air bubble out. Often, this sound will indicate that a bowel movement is in progress and the infant will bend its knees, bringing the legs toward the torso.This leg movement assists in the ongoing process. This is one of the hardest sounds to identify at first, so keep an eye out for the leg movement as well. If you are beginning EC, then this is an important one to watch out for!

To support the DBL organization and get their complete video click here.

Have you tried DBL, Elimination Communication, or baby sign language? We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!

Kyra Bramble is the Editor of Doula Spot, as well as a published writer, private chef, teacher, yogi, traveler, dancer and doula. She is deeply passionate about birth education and empowering women to see birth as a sacred journey. She sees many parallels between the commercialization of birth and food, and is committed to bringing love and awareness to both subjects. She loves being barefoot, very small dogs, dancing on top of things, and outdoor markets. She lives in Maui. You can visit her culinary blog More Pleaze to learn more. 

*Photos by Yoshihide Nomura and used under Creative Commons License.  

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