Perhaps you have already noticed … your baby is smart!
Rooting: The Hungry Baby Cue
Even your newborn gets this praise. Babies, from Day 1 of life, are smart. They are born with a way of “talking” to us that doesn’t necessarily involve crying. Many of us think of crying as the only way babies have to let us know what they need, but that’s not true.
Actually, your baby is born with a set of body-language cues that let you know, way before the crying starts, what your baby needs. Let’s take a look at hunger. When your baby is hungry you need to know, right? It’s good for ensuring the survival of the human race.
So, Mother Nature gave your baby a few cues to let you know. At first, your baby may use the body-language cue known as rooting. Rooting is a combination of sucking on fingers or fists, flailing hands, and turning the head as if looking for something. These body gestures alone are reliable signals to let you know your baby is hungry.
An earlier post “How Do I Know If My Baby Is Hungry?” offers a video demonstration of rooting.
But if you are not able to respond right away to these signals, perhaps you are in the middle of changing your baby’s diaper, your baby will let you know in other ways that food is the number one request at that moment, not a diaper change.
So, to get your attention, and to resend the message more clearly, your baby will add short bursts of crying out … loud, but short, bursts of sound that get your attention … while still signaling with sucking on fists, flailing hands, and head turning.
If the short calls for help aren’t getting the food any faster, your baby will add fussy-baby talk to the mix. This is more like crying, but not full-on crying because your baby is still trying to signal you with the body-language cues too. That’s a lot of work to get your attention!
If the diaper change is taking longer than usual, and feeding is delayed, the only tool your baby has left is full-on crying.
It Gets Better
As you learn to recognize the early hunger cues sooner, and as changing a diaper becomes smoother and faster, your baby will be fed before full-on crying is needed. With consistent reliable baby care, your baby will also become more patient with the diaper change when hungry, knowing from experience that the routine is followed by a feeding.
Perhaps you’ve already noticed how smart your baby is, having experienced this scenario many times throughout your day. And, if your baby is yet to be delivered, you now know how smart your newborn is, and can look forward to the adventure of learning together.
For you and yours,
D. Fravert, RN