When a baby is born, he/she displays communicative behavior immediately. Every minor action and reaction, are cues about what the baby wants, dislikes and his/her needs. Often it may seem difficult to fully grasp the meaning of the baby’s behavior, but with careful observation, such as during feeding, holding or talking to the baby, one can slowly grasp the baby’s demands.
In the meantime, the baby also observes the mother’s behaviors, gestures and voice tone, and hence, making this communication flows between a baby and mother, a two way process.
While disliking something, a baby may react to it by being irritable, by crying or by throwing tantrums. While finding something likeable, the baby often looks at it with intent and desire, and observes it quietly and steadily.
Benefits of Understanding Newborn Behavior
- Relaxation: Upon observing quick response towards his/her actions, the baby attains a feeling and relaxation and affection from the parents.
- Understanding preferable responses: Observing the baby’s behavior carefully, helps one to identify the type of handling the baby prefers: gentle or firm handling.
- Trust build up: When observing that the family members pay attention to his/her needs, the baby begins to trust the family more gradually.
- Emotional teaching: Sound understanding of the baby’s behavior, helps the mother to understand his/her emotional reactions. She can also teach her baby, by attempting to show her expressions to her baby and encouraging him/her to do the same.
- Confidence: This successful two way process of communication, assures the baby and also builds confidence in the parents in handling their new born with patience and affection.
Understanding the Newborn’s Mood
During the state of sleeping deeply, the baby will be absolutely still, his eyes will remain shut and he might make a subtle movement in his sleep occasionally.
While sleeping lightly or mildly, the eyes of the baby may flutter or open occasionally. He may move more than usual. This is known as Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM).
While being drowsy, or in a half-sleepy state, the baby doesn’t sleep completely, and opens his eyes and moves more.
When alert, the baby is fully awake, and is quite attentive to his/her surroundings.
When active, the baby will move very actively, and make occasional cries and sounds while responding to his environment.
When irritated or annoyed, the baby cries a lot, becomes unruly and is very difficult to manage.
While observing the above few moods and situations of the baby, a parent can draw out several behavioral patterns of the child.
Such as, while the baby is drowsy or sleepy, he won’t feed well, neither can he be coaxed into playing when he is crying or is annoyed. Hence, in such situations, parents have to act accordingly, in order to get a desirable response from the baby.
Such as, before feeding, the mother may awaken the baby a little to make him active. Similarly, the baby needs to be in a good mood in order to play happily.
Responding to the Baby’s Behaviors
When the baby wants to eat or be fed, he is likely to cry or make occasional sounds and noises. He might start suckling fingers or toys, or continuously keep his mouth open and turn his head.
When the baby feels like sleep, he may slowly stop his play and stop responding to whatever is happening to his surroundings. He may keep staring with drowsy eyes, before finally falling off to sleep.
When the newborn continuously seems to search for something, or if he makes sounds directing to his parents, it may mean that he is feeling bored and wants to play. Usually the baby remains steady and looks at his parents alertly, when he feels ready to play.
Sometimes, when nothing is available, facial expressions are the best and simplest way to play with the baby. It is a good way to keep him entertained and teach him various emotions and gestures.
The baby might fuss and squeal, and kick out his limbs, or through tantrums, if he or she wants to pass wind.
Sometimes, a baby feels very annoyed and angry with a wet diaper. He may give indications, by crying, not playing, becoming fussy and turning pale and red.
A baby is also very sensitive to subtle changes to environment and climate, and may respond differently when feeling too hot or too cold. When patches appear at the baby’s back, it indicates that the temperature is not right for the baby, and the baby’s body continuously is trying to react to it.
An easy way to maintain optimum temperature of the baby is adding layers of clothing. In this way, a layer may be removed or added, if the baby is feeling too hot or too cold.
Some babies are easily over excited and overactive, and easily switch between sudden outbursts of sleep, play, crying, or fussing. Such babies sometimes find it difficult to calm down or settle down easily.
The parent can control such behavior, by gently massaging the baby’s back or belly, or by holding him calmly, or carrying him around with love and patience. By observing his movements carefully, the parents can determine like to sleep or rest in particular positions or places, or prefer suckling his fingers or toys, as a method to calm down.
By observing the above cues, it is often possible to identify the personality trait of the infant. The baby may be very active and cry and play easily, and hence, need some effort to calm down. On the other hand, the baby may behave in a very relaxed manner, is very responsive to the environmental changes, and can be handled very easily by the family members.
The parent is required to go through a few factors if the baby is crying too much. They can check whether the baby is hungry, needs sleep or play, is feeling too hot or cold, or needs a diaper change.
Excessive crying can mean that there is colic or some other underlying problem, and in such cases, it is better to take a doctor’s advice.