The Secret Language of Babies in Practice

When I was reading up about teaching Sign Language to babies, I came across the theory of “The Secret Language of Babies” that is supposed to help every parent decode their baby’s needs before the crying even begins.  Since this code is only applicable in the first three months of life, I was never able to determine it’s validity for myself as Gavin was way past three months by the time I discovered the theory.

Last night, when Gareth was fussing, he made a lot of familiar sounds and I suddenly remembered this theory.  Since I couldn’t get to the computer, I couldn’t look up what the sound he was making meant.  Well, here they are again:

1. “Neh” – means “I’m hungry”
2. “Owh” – means “I’m sleepy”
3. “Heh” – means “I’m experiencing discomfort”
4. “Eair” – means “I have lower gas”
5. “Eh” – means “I need to burp”

I remember a lot of “eh” sounds, but I cannot be certain if it was specifically “eh” or “neh” or “heh”.  In retrospect, after the discovery of the poopy diaper, I am assuming he was uttering “heh”. 

To be honest, I wasn’t listening that carefully because I couldn’t remember exactly what sounds I was supposed to be listening out for.  That said, most of his noises did sound a lot like “eh”.  Nevertheless, it is early days yet so we’ll see if I can decipher this language and use it to help me read Gareth’s cues before they turn into full-scale howling.

Watch this space…

In the meantime, have you ever tried using the Secret Language of Babies with your baby?  What are your experiences?  Does it work?  Is it easy to decipher?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

6 thoughts on “The Secret Language of Babies in Practice

  1. I’d meant to blog about this when Connor started using a very particular sound for milk because I’d read your original post about it while I was pregnant with him. He was about 4 months old, we were in chilly UK and Connor was crying. As we’d been on the road quite a bit, his routine was all over the place and I couldn’t quite figure out why he was crying.
    Suddenly amidst the general crying sound, I heard a very clear “Neh-neh” sound. It was like “waaaaaaNEH-NEHwaaaaaaa”. Although I couldn’t remember what sound meant what, I recognised right away he wanted milk because it sounded so much like nen-nen! So I offered him some breastmilk and he stopped fussing right away.
    I never heard the other sounds mainly because I didn’t keep an ear out for them but I kept an ear out for the neh sound and up till today, he will say Neh-neh if he wants milk.


  2. Great! I’ll have to listen out for that one…

    I keep hearing grunts that sound like “eh” but I don’t know if I’m listening carefully enough. He can’t be wanting to burp all the time, right? Anyway, it is early days. Maybe I’ll get better at deciphering the sounds as we go along…


  3. I found this technique when my son was 10 days old and it worked a treat. Try looking up ‘Dunston principle’ on Youtube, there are examples of babies crying the cries you are listening for in your own child for each ‘need’. I found that my husband was much better than me at deciphering the sounds! I would think it was one thing and he would say that it was something else (usually milk!) and sure enough baby would calm down when I gave him what he really needed! It helped us around 6/8 times and was only hard when he had more than one need at a time. It was a sad day when he stopped crying so I could understand him, the game certainly got harder!


  4. i’ve always wanted to learn how to apply that but don’t really know how that works, Shen-Li but the usual checklist of milk, diaper, burp, sleep order can never go wrong…


  5. Vivian – I completely agree. I’ve been trying to understand Gareth’s secret language and occasionally catch the “burp” sound and heard the “hungry” sound once. I also suspected the need to poop a few times but wasn’t 100% on that. Other than that, I was completely stumped by the rest. In the end, I fell back to the good ol’ checklist you described…


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