Dunstan Baby Language: Learning Your Baby’s Cries

What if your baby could really tell you what they needed or wanted?  How much easier would that make you life, especially being a first-time parent?  What if I told you that you could understand what your baby needed when it cried? You’d think I was crazy, huh?

Well, let me tell you about a little thing called the Dunstan Baby Language.

dunstan baby language

A friend of mine mentioned it to me when Sophia was about a month old and I was intrigued.  She had said that her son would cry for several hours in the evening, apparently due to gas, when she thought he was hungry or tired.  After she told me what some of the cries sounded like, I instantly said some of those sound reflexes sounded familiar.  So, I googled it and came up with this:

Dunstan Baby Language is a claim about infantile vocal reflexes as signals, in humans. The claim is that across cultures and linguistic groups there are five sounds, each with a meaning, that are used by infants before the language acquisition period. The hypothesis was developed by Australian former mezzo-soprano, Priscilla Dunstan. Dunstan states that she has a photographic memory for sounds and that this, combined with her years in the opera and her experience as a mother, allowed her to recognize certain sounds in the human voice. ~Wikipedia

Words (sound reflexes)

Here are the five cries that Dunstan identified:

baby language

According to Dunstan, the five universal words (or sound reflexes) used by infants are:[3]

  • Neh (I’m hungry) – An infant uses the sound reflex “Neh” to communicate its hunger. The sound is produced when the sucking reflex is triggered, and the tongue is pushed up on the roof of the mouth.
  • Owh (I’m sleepy) – An infant uses the sound reflex “Owh” to communicate that they are tired. The sound is produced much like an audible yawn.
  • Heh (I’m experiencing discomfort) – An infant uses the sound reflex “Heh” to communicate stress, discomfort, or perhaps that it needs a fresh diaper. The sound is produced by a response to a skin reflex, such as feeling sweat or itchiness in the bum.
  • Eairh (I have lower gas) – An infant uses the sound reflex “Eairh” to communicate they have flatulence or an upset stomach. The sound is produced when trapped air from a belch is unable to release and travels to the stomach where the muscles of the intestines tighten to force the air bubble out. Often, this sound will indicate that a bowel movement is in progress, and the infant will bend its knees, bringing the legs toward the torso. This leg movement assists in the ongoing process.
  • Eh (I need to be burped) – An infant uses the sound reflex “Eh” to communicate that it needs to be burped. The sound is produced when a large bubble of trapped air is caught in the chest, and the reflex is trying to release this out of the mouth.

I have to say after watching the video and really listening to her that I could distinguish Sophia’s cries.  Most times she would cry Neh (hungry) and Owh (sleepy).  If I didn’t get her fed fast enough (I nurse on demand), she would really let me know.  It’s meant for birth to 3 months, but even into her 7th month, Sophia would still cry Neh to make sure I knew she was hungry.

Sophie sleeping on Josh

This is really cool stuff, I tell you!  I’m not surprised that babies could have the ability to tell us what they needed…they are pretty smart cookies.  And after checking out the Dunstan website, I learned that Oprah is a big fan of the baby language.  See that video here.

This isn’t to say it will work for everyone, but I say give it a shot.  I told my sister about it and she said all her son’s cries sounded the same to her.  Sorry, sis.

I do know this could save new/seasoned parents A LOT of the frustration of not knowing what your infant needs.  It’s always a guessing game and something like this is worth trying when you get desperate (don’t worry, we’ve all been there).  Even with Sophia being my 2nd child, it’s always nice to have help in the ‘what do you want/need?’ department…especially with a highly spirited 3 year-old (who will be 4 in three days!) kicking and screaming running around making me lose my marbles!

Emma in July

Well, there you have it, one mama’s tip on how to survive the first few months of having a baby!

Have you heard about this crazy ‘baby language?’  If not, check it out, especially if preparing for birth.  Pass it along to your friends, too; they will surely thank you.  Now go, figure out what on earth your baby’s cry is trying to tell you (and get some sleep).

Note: Photos from here and here.

One thought on “Dunstan Baby Language: Learning Your Baby’s Cries

  1. The DVD’s give great info and it really works but there is no need to have it on 2 DVD’s. It’s completely draged out just to make more money.

    Wrote an article about it, hope you like it:
    Dunstan Baby Language

    Again, it really does work and is completely cool but I believe the info could go on a single DVD and thus could be sold for less than 30 dollars.

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