Dunstan baby language is one way parents try to understand what their baby’s cries mean. The Dunstan method notes that babies have a universal “language,” no matter where they’re born or what language their parents speak.
What is Dunstan baby language?
Dunstan baby language was created by Priscilla Dunstan, an Australian opera singer. Dunstan is not a speech therapist or expert on babies, but she used her skills as a singer and vocalist — and her ear for music — to carry out research on babies around the world for eight years. The end result was Dunstan baby language.
She observed that all babies make certain sounds just before they cry. According to Dunstan, learning these sounds can help you figure out what your baby is trying to tell you before their crying escalates.
Dunstan baby language is more of a technique than a “language.” It’s simple for parents and caretakers to learn and apply to most babies.
How to use Dunstan baby language
According to Dunstan baby language, there are only five sounds that all babies make just before crying. These sounds — not the actual cry — are what you need to listen for to figure out what your baby needs.
The five basic sounds in Dunstan baby language are:
- Neh = “I’m hungry!
- Eh = “Burp me!”
- Eairh or earggghh = Gassy or need to poop
- Heh = physically uncomfortable (hot, cold or wet)
- Owh or oah= “I’m sleepy.”
Dunstan baby language also uses a baby’s body language and hand gestures to help you understand why your little one may be crying. Parents are also encouraged to observe the number of cries and in what pattern (if any) your baby is crying.
Along with crying sounds, Dunstan baby language recommends looking at your baby’s movements. These include:
- Head rotation. If your baby does this movement without crying, it may mean that she is about to fall asleep. If your baby is crying while moving her head side to side, she is likely uncomfortable or in pain.
- Clenching fist. Fist-clenching is usually mistaken for pain or anger, but it actually may mean that your baby is hungry (or hangry).
- Jerking arms. This may mean that your baby is startled or scared.
- Back arching. If your baby makes himself bow-shaped she might be in pain or just uncomfortable. Back arching might signal that your baby is over-fed, bloated or colicky. Babies older than 2 months might also arch their backs when they are just tired or uncomfortable.
- Lifting legs. If your baby is lifting or bending her legs towards her stomach, she might have gas or colic. Or she may just be happy and want to play!
Dunstan baby language works best before your little one begins learning how to make new sounds. This is because as your baby begins to try to form sounds and speak, her natural, reflexive baby sounds may change.
You can begin using Dunstan baby language right when your baby is born. It’s most useful for babies 3 months old and younger, but you can use it even if your baby is a bit older.