Babies

Baby cues and baby body language: a guide

Baby cues and baby body language: a guide

About baby cues and body language

Your baby's body language can tell you how he's feeling and what he needs from you.

Your baby's body language gives you important cues about whether she's:

  • tired
  • hungry
  • wide awake and ready to play
  • needing a break.

Why it's important to respond to baby cues

When you notice your baby's body language and respond to it, he feels safe and secure. This helps you to build a strong relationship with your baby. And a strong relationship with you and other main caregivers is vital to your baby's development.

Recognising baby cues

All babies give cues to how they're feeling and what they need from you. But each baby develops her own mix of signs to tell you what she wants. Eventually you'll get to know your baby's individual cues and what they tell you about your baby's feelings.

And as you and your baby get to know each other, you'll figure out the best way to respond to your baby's individual cues too. For example, your grizzling baby might look relaxed when you smile at him, or he might seem to like it better when you sing and talk to him. This helps you know how to respond the next time he grizzles.

Watch the video to learn more about baby cues.

Download Baby cues introduction transcript

Baby cues that say 'I'm tired'

Tired signs in babies include:

  • staring into the distance
  • jerky movements
  • yawning
  • fussing
  • sucking fingers
  • losing interest in people or toys.

Watch the video to see what these cues look like in real babies.

Download 'I'm tired' transcript

When you recognise tired signs in your baby, it's a good idea to start settling baby for sleep.

Baby cues that say 'I'm hungry'

Newborns need to feed every 2-3 hours. When your baby is hungry, she might:

  • make sucking noises
  • turn towards the breast.

You can start to look for these cues every 1-2 hours in newborns or every 3-4 hours for an older baby.

Watch the video to see what hunger cues look like in real babies.

Download 'I'm hungry' transcript

When you recognise hunger signs in your baby, it's a good idea to offer him a feed. Looking for your baby's hunger signs is a better way to work out when to feed than waiting for a set number of hours.

Baby cues that say 'I want to play'

Older babies usually follow a 'feed-play-sleep' routine.

Cues that your baby is ready to play with you include:

  • eyes wide and bright
  • eye contact with you
  • smiles
  • smooth movements
  • hands reaching out to you.

Watch the video to see more signs that your baby is ready to play and to see these baby cues in action.

Download 'I want to play' transcript

When you recognise 'ready to play' signs in your baby, it's a good time to smile and talk to your baby. Baby play is simple: the best toy for your baby is you, and the best baby game is playing with you.

Baby cues that say 'I need a break'

Babies who are four months and older might not always be ready for a nap after their play time. Sometimes they might want a change of pace or activity instead. So what do these baby cues look like?

If your baby wants a break from what she's doing right now, she might:

  • turn her head away from you
  • squirm or kick.

Watch the video to see more signs that your baby wants to change activity and to see these baby cues in action.

Download 'I need a break' transcript

When you recognise 'ready for a break' signs in your baby, it's a good idea to give him some quiet time or a different activity. For example, if your baby turns his head away from the rattle you're showing him, you could lie him on his back to look at his mobile for a while.