Baby Cues & Baby Body Language

Raising Children Network

Categories: Development,Research

This content was provided by Raising Children Network, a Playgroup NSW partner.


Key points

    • Your baby’s body language can tell you how she’s feeling and what she needs.
    • Look for baby cues for tiredness, alertness, hunger, discomfort and more.
    • Watch the videos below to see baby cues in action.


About baby cues and body language

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

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.


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.

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.

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.

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