5 Amazing ways your newborn communicates

by | Nov 21, 2019 | Featured, New parent, Newborns

That little person is very tuned in to you.

From the moment they’re born, babies are ready to listen, respond and try to figure out how to be in relationship with you. Research gives us really interesting insight into how equipped newborns are to do this.

Let’s take a look at 5 ways your baby is primed to communicate with you from day one.

1. They know and prefer mom’s voice.

Recently I was visiting some friends in the hospital who had just had a baby. I was holding the newborn, both mom and dad were there in the room. She started crying and what I tried to do to comfort her just wasn’t working. I gave her to mom, who quietly spoke to her as she held her and at the sound of her voice that beautiful little one calmed immediately. Like within 2 seconds! She’d been hearing mom’s voice for months while in the womb. It comforted her. She did not want some strange lady to hold her. I love that about babies – they let you know what they want and need. They are so good at it!

Research has shown that newborns prefer not only mom’s voice but everyone else in the family who’s been talking to that belly.


2. They are familiar with their native language.

Newborns are familiar with the sounds, rhythm and cadence of your language. They’ve heard it constantly throughout gestation. Amazingly enough, research has shown that a newborn can recognize if they hear a language different that the one they’re familiar with. They notice it’s different.

Wondering how in the world they can know this? By watching baby suck on a pacifier! Babies will stop sucking when they hear something new, as if they have to stop and try to figure it out.

Check out this amazing video. You’ll find the study that looks at Native Language Preference at 3:51 on the video.


3. They recognize if something’s wrong with your face. 

Babies are born with the desire to study your face. They’re drawn to it. They gaze at you, you gaze at them and the love connection is cemented. This is an important component of attachment, which is foundational to emotional development. They prefer to look at pictures of faces over other objects. That’s why you see so many chunky baby books with faces of children on the pages.

What happens if a baby is shown a picture of a face with all the parts scrambled? Or if a face is upside down instead of right side up? They notice! They don’t like it at all! Here’s a study about face inversion.

4. They pay attention to words that matter.

Babies are born with an inborn readiness to learn language. They can even tell the difference between parts of speech that are important, like nouns and verbs, and will ignore the words that don’t matter, words like ‘the’, ‘to’, ‘and’ or ‘yet’. It’s as if the their brain has already begun the process of learning to speak, even thought actual words won’t be spoken for about a year! Babies do understand speech long before they are able to talk to you and the development of receptive language begins at birth. Here’s a look at a study of how newborns recognize parts of speech. You can fast forward to 6:55 to check it out.


5. They cry to communicate.

The first cry at birth is music to your ears. It lets you know that your baby is alive and well and you can breathe a sigh of relief. 

Newborns cry to communicate and with time, you learn to distinguish cries. You’ll soon be able to tell the difference between a hungry, sleepy, hurting or an “I’m overstimulated” cry.

It’s really important to be responsive to your baby’s cry and not ignore their attempts at communication. 

Here are suggestions for soothing your crying baby:

  • Take care of the physical need: hunger, sleepiness, discomfort, need to burp, etc.
  • Walk with baby. They love the movement and the closeness. And if you’ll walk outdoors it seems to be especially calming.
  • Put baby in motion. Rock them, swing gently, use a baby swing.
  • Swaddle up. Sometimes being swaddled will help your tiny baby feel safe and they’ll calm down.

The secret is discovering your baby’s unique and individual ways of communicating and figuring out how they best respond, what makes them happy and content.

It’s your new lifelong job as a parent.

You’ve got this parenting thing. You are exactly the person that YOUR baby needs. You are very important. 😍



Want to understand more about how your baby communicates with you? Check out our post on the reasons newborn babies cry!

Ready for some play? Check out our post on playing with a 0-3 month old,  play ideas for 3-6 month olds and 6-9 month olds!

Meet Ann

I'm a child development specialist, parent coach and teacher trainer. I've cared for countless babies in child development programs, plus 3 kids, 3 grand babies and 5 foster babies! I LOVE babies and would come hold yours if I could. ❤️

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