Your baby may not be able to talk during the early months, but babies use many forms of nonverbal communication to express thoughts and communicate needs. Adults use nonverbal communication throughout the day as well. We wave to say hello to a neighbor, point and gesture to get a message across when we're unable to talk, and use facial expressions to communicate feelings. Responding appropriately to the earliest forms of nonverbal communication your baby is using will lay the foundation to future verbal communication and socialization. As a child transitions from nonverbal to verbal communication, they transition from reflexive forms of communication to intentional/ purposeful communication. Below is a list of the earliest forms of communication.
This is the reflex where babies turn their heads to the side, pucker their lips,
and start sucking. It is most prominent the earliest weeks and months and
When babies are overstimulated their breathing rate may increase. A rapid, quick breathing pattern in a loud environment may indicate your baby is feeling overwhelmed and a cry may follow soon.
Many parents can interpret the meaning of their baby's cries after a short period of time. There's the hungry cry, the sleepy cry, the discomfort cry (time for some bicycle legs to relieve gas). Each cry has a different intensity and tone to it.
While they may not be as intentional as some of the facial expressions
we make, a baby's facial expression communicates an emotion in it's
truest form. Have you seen the video of the baby trying her first spoonful
of pureed avacado? We don't need words to understand how she felt after
she pursed her lips, close her eyes, and then stuck out her tongue. She
communicated pure disgust with no words spoken.
Those sweet squeals and grunts carry a lot of emotions. You soon will know the different vocalizations just as you know your baby's various cries. Your baby will progress from squeals to babbles. Babble Books has outlined the stages of babbling and it's quite fun to listen as your baby starts ga-ga-goo-gooing.
Your baby will go from only looking at one object, babies prefer human faces so provide them plenty of face time, to shifting their gaze from you to objects and then back to you. As babies develop object permanence, typically 4-7 months, they will start looking for items that are moved out of sight.
Soon your baby will start pointing to the bottle or a favorite toy. Start
naming those items. You can play simple hide and seek games with
objects easily within eyesight. Say "Where is the (object)?" and encourage
your baby to look and point
Simple gestures and signs for common objects/action words ("more" or "eat") help the baby further express wants and needs as their speech is developing. Just like with pointing, state the object or word they are signing to support their speech development.
Support these nonverbal forms of communication with verbal responses such as, in response to a discomfort cry, "I know you're uncomfortable, let's get your diaper changed." And of course, foster the development of those earliest speech sounds by reading Babble Books Stage One. Pretty soon, those early speech sounds will be used in your baby's first words.