Understanding Baby's Body Language

Confused by some of your infant's movements and hand gestures? Here's how to decipher her nonverbal communication.

0 - 3 Months

During the first weeks of life, your baby will seem to be sending out a lot of signals. From birth, he will turn his head when you touch his cheek and extend his arms and legs and cry when he's startled. He'll also take a step forward when his feet touch a flat surface and grasp your finger when you stroke his palm. "Interestingly enough, none of these body signals is really about communicating," Dr. Speer says. "They're simply reflexes that your baby was born with." In a few months, some will disappear entirely, while others will evolve into more purposeful actions.

Of course, not all of your baby's early signals are mere reflexes. That gummy grin that surfaces at about 6 weeks, for example, is not gas. "Your baby's smiling isn't always a response to your actions, but it is a sign that he's happy," says Ron Marino, D.O., director of general pediatrics at Winthrop-University Hospital, in Mineola, New York. And as Dr. Marino notes, the timing couldn't be better. "Parents work so hard during those first six weeks -- it's nice to get some feedback."

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