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Is My Baby Happy?

A baby can be a mystifying creature. As new parents we often worry if we are succeeding in meeting their needs. The truth is babies are very good at telling us if they are happy or not we just have to be aware of the cues they give us.

At Tots Play we have worked with babies for many years and can often give you some clues to help you decipher what’s going on in those little heads. You are the real expert on your baby though, and by taking some time to observe your baby in different situations you will soon start to see some patterns of body language, movements, sounds and facial expressions emerge that will give you a clearer understanding of your little ones needs and wants, and how to respond to them.

To help you on your way here are some things to look out for and ways you can start to decode baby body language from birth through their first year, as well as some extra tips on why your baby might cry and how to keep them smiling.

How do I know if my baby is happy?

A happy new-born baby won’t be breaking into Pharrell’s Happy lyrics anytime soon, instead they will show you their satisfaction with absolutely zero facial expression. Looking peaceful, blank or even drowsy is a great sign that they are having an amazing time.

A baby will flash their first beautiful smile between the ages of 4 – 10 weeks old. Don’t worry if your baby isn’t an early smiler it doesn’t mean they are any less happy than the next baby they just haven’t flexed their happy muscles yet. You may see little flashes of a smile before this but it will be usually a reflex or wind. It is only when they smile in response to something or someone that it is considered a “real” smile.

In those early days the way a baby’s body moves is a good indicator of contentment. Babies that are uncomfortable or unsettled will arch their back and feel tense. When a baby’s muscles are relaxed this is their way of communicating their satisfaction.

The sight of your face and the sound of your voice soothe your new baby. It can be frustrating when you smile and coo and him and are met with a blank, drowsy stare, but that's a good sign! "At this point babies don't have the capacity to express positive emotions other than by looking peaceful," says Linda Acredolo, Ph.D., cofounder of Baby Signs, Inc. "They either cry or don't cry." When he turns toward you and gazes at your face, he's saying, Life is good. The sight of your face and the sound of your voice soothe your new baby.

What will make my baby laugh?

One of the most exciting things for a parent to hear is their baby’s laughter which can usually be heard around the 3 month mark. A laughing baby is certainly a happy one. They respond to a variety of things with their unique little giggle; some expected some not so expected, you may find your baby reacting with hysterical laughter to something as simple as a sneeze.

By the time they are 6 months you will have learnt some special tricks to get your baby laughing on cue, they absolutely love surprises after all it’s no coincidence that peek-a-boo is a favourite baby game.

Just as when they were new-born though, their basic needs remain a central issue. You will NEVER get a hungry baby to laugh!

Babies will begin to babble any time from around 4 months. This baby language can be extremely expressive despite the lack of words. The higher the pitch of their voice the more interested and excited they are.

By the time your baby is a year old they will have developed very comprehensive ways to communicate their happiness even without words. This becomes more impressive, and easy to decipher if you have used baby sign language with them. After a year old they start to develop their own little sense of humour and will often delight in doing silly things for the amusement of themselves and others.

Why is my baby unhappy?

If your baby seems unhappy, if they seem upset, grumpy or tense then the first thing to do is to check that their basic needs have been met. Sometimes though this isn’t enough and babies continue to show signs of unhappiness. Rest assured that this is perfectly normal and that all parents go through times when they feel confused or helpless with a crying baby. Here a few things that may be aggravating your little one;

  • Hunger – for milk for after 6 months solids

  • Wet or dirty nappy

  • Thirst

  • Wind

  • Colic – persistent crying in young healthy babies for several hours

  • Tummy ache

  • Teething

  • Boredom

  • Overstimulation

  • Uncomfortable position

  • Hot or cold

  • Tired

  • Developmental “leaps”

  • Wanting a particular toy out of reach

  • Being told no or having something taken away

*If you are worried about your baby’s health seek medical attention.*

As you can see this is quite a long list and it can be difficult to understand what your baby wants. Many times mothers will worry that their baby just doesn’t want to be put down and that they are only happy when being held. This is absolutely exhausting but also very normal for many babies in the early days. After all they have spent their entire existence tucked up warm and cosy inside of you and now they just want to be somewhere that reminds them of this, often this means in your arms.

If you are having a difficult time, remember this time does pass and it is not your fault. Give yourself the opportunity to take a break by accepting help from family and friends. You deserve it.

What can I do to help my baby find happiness?

Meeting your baby’s needs and reading their cues are important but there are some additional activities you can do to help keep your baby satisfied.

  • Baby massage can help alleviate the discomfort of the symptoms of wind and colic, and help soothe and relax your baby.

  • Baby yoga provides a fun, stimulating workout to keep your baby smiling.

  • Baby sign language is a great way to enable your child to communicate with you better before they have words, this reduces frustration and helps baby to get what they need.

  • Interactive games and songs– learn to play age appropriate games with your baby that will stimulate them and encourage their development, or simply sing and dance with your little one.

All of these are activities form part of the Tots Play programme, and attending classes with us, or practicing some of the activities you learn at home, is a great opportunity for you and your baby to spend special time bonding and learning new skills together. This will also empower you with the confidence to know that you do bring your baby happiness everyday just by being their mum.

Find your local Tots Play class HERE, and get some inspirations for happy playtimes at home with the resources, songs and activity ideas in our online store.

Happy playing!

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