Health: Why Do Our Babies Cry?


Want to know exactly what baby is saying to you? You won’t believe this…


If you read no other piece of advice as a new mother – read this. Never again need weary mummies shrug their shoulders and look to the sky in despair when after nappy-changing, winding and feeding their newborn, it is still crying. A new system of understanding precisely what a newborn baby is ‘saying’ has been developed and is transforming the lives of millions of sleep-deprived mummies and daddies the world over. The Dunstan Baby Language is simple – and by almost every account, works.

[quote_right]”By the time I had my third baby, I felt very confident I knew what he was ‘saying’ to me and as a result, he was calmer and I felt much more confident.”[/quote_right]

Your newborn uses just five ‘words’. Learn what they are, and no more will you have to run through a checklist of possibles at 3am, while the wee one’s wailing reaches hysterical heights. Babies use one ‘word’ for “I’m sleepy,” one for “change me,” one for “I’m hungry,” one for “burp me” and one for “I’ve got wind”.

And it doesn’t matter what language they speak, the ‘word’ is always the same. Once you recognise these words you have learnt the Dunstan Baby Language and can respond to baby’s needs more quickly and with less stress – for both of you. Every newborn communicates from birth to three months.

It is not a learned language, rather it is a natural way for a baby to express their physical needs. The sounds they use are based on their physical responses, called reflexes. For example, when a baby is hungry it will start to suck and as sound is added to the reflex, the ‘word’ for hunger is produced. The sooner the word for hunger is recognised, the sooner a parent can respond by feeding.

The Dunstan system teaches you to tune your ear to each sound.

In basic terms:

  • The sound for hunger is “neh”
  • The sound for sleepy is “owh”
  • The sound for wind me/lower stomach pain is “eairh”
  • The sound for burping is “eh” and
  • The sound for change me is “heh”.

So impressed was US talkshow supremo Oprah Winfrey when she heard, that she devoted an entire show to the language, leading to an unprecedented response from viewers.

cryingbaby2The woman behind it all is Australian born, Priscilla Dunstan, the mother-of-one who’s parents discovered that she had a very interesting gift. At just five years old she could hear a Mozart concerto on the piano and play it back note for note. Her father, director of the Educational Testing Centre at the University of New South Wales, found that his young daughter possessed something known as an ‘eidetic memory’ – a photographic memory for sound.

As a teenager she toured Europe and Australia as an accomplished concert violinist and for ten years she then immersed herself in the world of opera as a mezzo-soprano. It was during this time the seeds of her incredible ability to understand, feel and interpret sound were truly sown. Ever since then, she says she has been able to hear a special “second language” beyond English which allows her to spot what sort of mood someone is in and even diagnose illness.

“Other people might hear a note, but I sort of get the whole symphony,” she told Baby London. “So, when someone’s speaking, I get all this extra information that other people might not pick up.”

When she gave birth to her son Tom she quickly realised her unusual gift meant that she could pick up patterns in his cries – and that other people’s babies were making the same noises too. The Dunstan Baby Language system was born.

Priscilla went on to spend eight years fully researching her hunch and now has an impressive list of independent endorsements. Following courses in Australia, the US and the UK in 2006 and 2007, 90 per cent of mothers found it “valuable” and would recommend the system to others. Two out of three fathers reported reduced levels of stress and “more positive marital relationships” as a result.

On Oprah’s show, Priscilla met with eight new mothers and their nine newborns and after two hours, all nine were comfortable, happy and quiet. Their mothers had translated their cries and tended to their specific needs. Of course, once the baby’s mother has learnt their offspring’s language, dads, grandparents and even nannies can tune in – something that Priscilla claims can help with the bonding that can sometimes be a problem with people other than mum.

Priscilla has now launched the Dunstan Baby Accreditation Programme which aims to train people in the art of recognising baby talk in order to pass it on at classes. She said it was “ideal” for anyone involved in either pregnancy – such as midwives, health visitors, or doulas (birth partners) – or baby care, such as nannies. She told Baby London: “The real beauty of this is that it doesn’t matter if you’re from England or the US, the language is the same.”

By the time I had my third baby, I felt very confident I knew what he was “saying to me” and as a result, he was calmer and I felt much more confident. I’m not naive enough to suggest that knowing better what your baby wants takes all the stress away from a newborn – far from it – but it helps. Had I been able to learn this secret language in time for baby one, I really think it would’ve made a difference.

When I watched Priscilla with a class of babies and heard them crying, I instantly knew what almost every one was saying. All of them made the same noises my three boys had – and yet I’d never realised. We think after one, two, three or more pregnancies we’re understanding our own babies more. We’re not – we’re simply recognising their ‘words’. What Priscilla has done with Dunstan, is let us in on the secret, without having to go through labour three times!