Understanding your baby’s communication

“This child has lungs!” I’m sure that every parent has had this thought about their wee little one… Perhaps while you stand in line at the supermarket? Or at 3:00am in the morning when you’re staying with your in-laws?

They say that communication is key to good relationships, but when it comes to babies that’s easier said than done!

Although our bub is not talking yet–as in saying words–he is definitely learning more and more about how to communicate. It’s so fun watching him develop his collection of sounds and test out his range, pitch, and vocabulary… if you want to call it that. 🙂

But it’s not only his–uh–verbal exploits that help us understand him, it’s also his body language.

Since becoming a mom, one of my absolute favorite parenting resources has become the Baby Whisperer series by Tracy Hogg. And although I’m not intending to write a complete book review here at the moment, I will say that as I’ve read her books and browsed the message boards on her website, I’ve learned soooo much about this whole area of communication with our baby.

One of the basic things she writes about is how important it is to take a step back and listen to our infants – not just how they cry, but what their faces are saying, their arms, their legs, their mouths, their eyes, and their body as a whole. Some of it is very intuitive, some of it is far less obvious, and all of it comes from years of observing thousands of babies. Her books are full of incredible tips about how to decipher your baby’s language and–in knowing what they’re saying–learn how to care for them better.

Increasingly I’m learning what Levi is “saying” to me, and that gives me more and more confidence in my ability to meet his needs – something every mom or dad wants (especially us first-timers).

But communication is a two-way street.

Not only does Hogg give some great tips on how to listen to your baby and learn what he is saying, but she also talks about how to help your baby understand what you are saying. It all comes back to the process of learning two-way communication.

Nearly every mom I know instinctively talks to their baby about what they’re doing (we love those running commentaries, don’t we?!). And who doesn’t get a thrill out of making “oohs” and “ahhs” other noises back and forth with our precious little people? But as important as those things are, Hogg also points out another level of communication that may not seem as obvious — namely, how routine can help to communicate to our wee ones what we’re doing, what is coming, and what we expect of them.

It’s easy to forget that these little ones want to understand us just as much as we want to understand them.

One of things that my husband and I have implemented since reading Hogg’s books is to give Levi a wind-down routine before nap times and bedtime. We check his diaper, swaddle him (though he’s busting out of his swaddle blankets more and more these days), draw the curtains, read him a story, and then put him in bed. We literally do that for every nap. (And our bedtime routine is similar.) Not only does this help him transition from play time to sleepy time (focusing on the pages and hearing one of us read in a soft, low voice definitely calms him), but it also “tells” him (and prepares him for) what’s coming next.

By the end of this little routine he’s prepared to be “left” in his crib and he knows that once his nap is over… mommy (or daddy) will alway come back. It’s evident that he understands this because he doesn’t cry when we put him down. Nine times out of ten he smiles, chats to himself for a couple of minutes, and then drifts off to la la land.

Although he can’t tell us now, I’m convinced that this short, simple routine has helped him understand what’s happening in his little world… which in turn helps him settle and know what role he has in it all. I believe it helps him feel at peace and secure.

It’s helped me too. I’m learning how to respect the fact that my baby is a little person and that–even at this tender young age–he needs some level of understanding, as minimal as it may be.

As a parent, it’s a given that I want my children to learn how to listen and follow instructions and to trust our decisions for them. But I also want them to grow up feeling like mom and dad have taken the time to communicate with them – the why’s, the how’s, and the what for’s (when it’s relevant and age-appropriate of course). We want them to be raised in a family that communicates–not just instructs–and we believe that there’s no such thing as starting too early with instilling and modeling these principles.

It comes down to valuing the individual and demonstrating love and respect toward people… yes, even little children. (*gasp*)

All that to say… we do a lot of talking to our baby and we do a lot of listening. We’re trying to become parents who are experts at communication, not just with each other, but also with our children. We’ve got a lot to learn, and some days are harder than others when it comes to understanding what Levi is “saying”, but it feels good to know that we’re positioned to grow.

And…. having said all of that… of course we love to practice our “ooo-ing” and “ahh-ing” and gurggling with our son as well. That part of communicating is important too…. and so much fun!!

This is a “conversation” I had with our adorable Levi about three or four weeks ago on his three-month-birthday:

Here’s to the joy and struggle in the process of learning how to communicate with our kids!

About Author

Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. Adriel has become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women's issues. She's also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she's made the companion grief journal available for free. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or sign up for LoveNotes, Adriel's 'secret posts' that aren't published anywhere else online. ✌️


  • Trista's Barn
    17 May 2010 at 2:09 am

    Hi. I am Trista, following your blog from MBC. You have a beautiful little boy.

  • Veronica Lee
    17 May 2010 at 5:04 am

    Your son is beautiful!

    Hi! Stopping by from MBC. Love your blog.

    Have a nice day!

  • Sara at Miller Moments:
    17 May 2010 at 1:26 pm

    A – I'm so glad to hear that Levi is doing much better nap-wise! Is he taking longer naps/sleeps now, too? I never got a chance to read the Baby Whisperer – but it sounds fantastic! Wonderful, informational post. I agree with the routine – my kids were generally easy to lay down fully awake and be OK with it. Thanks for writing such a great post!

  • Natalie
    17 May 2010 at 3:11 pm

    First off, Levi is a handsome little guy!!

    Isn't it amazing how much you can communicate with your little ones when you pay attention to their different cries and body language? It makes parenting a lot easier!

    My 9 month old twins just realized that they can scream, and both of them think it's hilarious! We, or course, do not 🙂

    Thanks for swinging by my blog – I'm following you!

  • The Mommy
    17 May 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Hi there!
    I love all the pictures that are on the sidebars of your blog. Your baby is so aorable
    Thanks for visiting me
    I'm your new follower:)

  • Jhen.Stark
    17 May 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Never thought of it this way, but I like it! Joss has been pretty good, but very random. So I'm going to start "communicating" with her by routine. We'll see how this goes…

  • Redheadlaw7
    18 May 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Hey girl. I know our youngest has been affectionately named "leather lungs." Good stuff!

  • Shonda
    18 May 2010 at 2:39 pm

    So nice to meet you! Your son is adorable! I'm a new follower!

  • Emily
    18 May 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Thanks for coming by my blog, I am now following you. Your son is so cute. It is great you are beginning to communicate more with him, life is definitely easier when you can understand what the little one is trying to tell you.

  • Tina Peterson
    19 May 2010 at 5:09 am

    What a cute little guy! i'll have to check the Baby Whisperer book out for future baby showers. I'm following you from MBC – thanks for friending my blog too!

    Tina "The Book Lady"

  • Tina Peterson
    19 May 2010 at 5:11 am

    Do you use a regular digital camera or a video camera to do your videos? I have never tried to do a video yet. Love yours!

  • adriel, from the mommyhood memos
    20 May 2010 at 11:50 am

    tina, i just used a little digital camera for this one – so easy! 🙂


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