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The 5 sounds that ALL babies make

A lot of research has been done to try and understand the various sounds that babies make. One study was conducted over eight years and involved over 1000 babies from all nationalities.


It was discovered that there are five sounds that all babies say before they start to cry.


This study was done by Priscilla Dunston, an Australian opera singer who went on to create Dunstan Baby Language.


This study was then peer reviewed by a number of other researchers. They found between 89% and 94% accuracy in Dunstan’s claims.


That’s enough for us to be interested!

Remember, these are the sounds your baby makes BEFORE they cry. It will take practice but once you tune in you will soon recognise them.



NEH = I’m hungry


This is one of the easier problems for your baby to communicate and for you to understand. Hunger is often accompanied with a sucking reflex. If your baby is making sucking motions and crying you will hear the sound NEH at the start. New babies often also reflexively clench their fists when they’re hungry.


OWH or OAH = I’m sleepy


This sound is accompanied by an oval shaped mouth and flattened tongue. This sound is created when the baby yawns and exhales. It is usually heard before the baby cries but can also be made during crying in newborns.


HEH = I’m experiencing discomfort


This sound mostly applies to babies over six weeks of age and has several vocal variations. When a baby is experiencing discomfort, the crying is usually mild and intermittent. It will increase in volume if they aren’t attended to. It could relate to being uncomfortable in the position they are in, itchy clothing, a full nappy (or anything other than the other sounds in this list).


EARIH or EARGGGHH = I have lower gas


If your baby has an upset tummy this is the sound they might make. It starts with an open mouth, tongue held back and a tight belly. When the pain is intense the start of the EAIRH sound turns into an intense cry. If we miss the early signal and sounds, the cry will become loud, intense and rhythmic. It will last until the wind has passed which may follow a similar path as a bowel movement.


EH = I need to burp


This sound is caused by internal reflexes pushing up an air bubble from the chest. The baby naturally responds with a short hiss, a grunt or a squeak that sounds like the E in egg. It’s not a real burp but the sound your baby makes when trying to burp. May also be accompanied by facial expression, squirming, kicking, shaking and other fussiness.



There are movements to look out for as well.


Head rotation: This can mean two things: head rotation without crying can mean baby is about to fall asleep. Head rotation wile crying means discomfort or pain.


Clenching fist: This is often mistaken for anger but it actually means your baby is hungry (or hangry!)


Jerking arms: This is simply baby being startled or scared.


Back arching: This is associated with pain or discomfort. It is also a signal baby is bloated, overfed or colicky. Babies olderthan2 months can do this when they are over tired.


Leg lifting: This can mean two things, either your baby is happy and wants to play or she might have gas.




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