I remember how frightened I was when I brought my first child home from the hospital almost two decades ago. I was anxious because I thought that she couldn’t talk or tell me what was wrong. The truth is that I was wrong; even the youngest infant communicates enough to let her parents know if something is wrong, or if she needs something.
Very young infants communicate by crying and an infant will cry if he is tired, bored, hungry, or dirty. That’s a lot of crying! As your child grows, and as you become more familiar with her cries, you’ll begin to notice that the cries are “different”. For example, my son has different sounding cries. His cry when he is hungry sounds much different than his cry when he is bored.
I am learning to decode his cries and he is learning that when he cries, his needs get met. This is really the foundation of all communication: when we express ourselves, people respond to us.
Around two months of age, infants also start communicating with sounds. At this young age, the sounds have no meaning, but the infant is learning to use her voice and learning that people respond. A two month old infant may make gurggling noises or may coo occasionally. My son has just learned that he can squeal very loudly and I’m sure he’ll be doing this more often as he ages.
As babies age, they may start to make sounds like “mamaaaa” and “dadaa”. At first, they just like to make sounds, but eventually, they learn that sounds have meaning. If a child coos “ma-ma”, odds are that his mother will respond and he’ll associate those sounds with his mother. Likewise with his father and “dadaa”.
Infants also communicate in non-verbal ways as well. Around two months of age, an infant may smile when she hears her mother’s or father’s voice. When a child is hungry, he may “root” or open his mouth and wiggle his head from side to side quickly. This tells a caregiver that he is hungry. Likewise, when an infant is full, he will pull away from the bottle or breast, letting a caregiver know that he doesn’t want anymore food at that moment.
It’s amazing to think that even when a child is young, he is still able to communicate and let those around him know what he needs. Perhaps you are a new parent or will become a parent soon and are worried about communicating with your child just like I was all those years ago! Don’t worry, you’ll do just fine.