Does Your Baby Speak a Secret Language?

Submitted by Courtney on Sun, 03/07/2010 - 21:37

While pregnant with my last child, I attended a one day prenatal class with my husband where we learned many of the typical things I expected to learn: birthing positions, how to tolerate pain, breathing techniques and how to care for a baby during those frightening first two weeks of life. Then we learned about something else called “Dunstan Baby Language”.

“Dunstan Baby Language” is a hypothesis that has been developed by Priscilla Dunstan, a former Australian mezzo-soprano who claims that infants have certain speech patterns right from birth that are cues for specific needs.

I admit, I almost bought the DVD set right then and there – my 2 week old can actually TALK to me? Really? It seemed almost too good to be true, but I mean… it WAS featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show. It had to actually work, right?

Know the Sounds

Though I did not buy the DVD set, I did borrow it from a friend of mine and watched it several times over before I had my baby. My husband and I took thorough notes and recognized the different ways a baby can say these sounds:

  • Neh: “I’m hungry!”
  • Owh: “I’m sleepy!”
  • Heh: “I’m uncomfortable!”
  • Eairh: “I have lower gas!” (as in an upset tummy or flatulence)
  • Eh: “I need to be burped!”

How a baby actually says these words may differ slightly, but I was told it would generally be the same.

Well, the baby came and I completely forgot about this mystery baby language for the first couple of days. Everything just sounded like grunts and cries to me. After I finally got a solid 3 hours of sleep, I reviewed the notes again and began observing my newborn to see if any of these sounds actually came out of him. And they did – somewhat.

Understand the Difference

Training my ear to hear the difference between “heh” and “eh” was extremely troublesome for me. I fond myself burping my son almost nonstop during those first couple of weeks, which sometimes seemed to have just irritated him all the more. “Neh” often seemed to mean he was uncomfortable rather than hungry, I never heard “eairh” (though believe me, that baby had gas like you wouldn’t believe) but I will tell you this: that “owh” sound was spot on. Then again, the “owh” was usually the result of my son yawning, which was also a clear indication of him needing sleep.

Needless to say, I’m a tad apprehensive about this whole “Dunstan Baby Language” thing, though I was also an overwhelmed and very tired mommy at the time. By the time I was getting some decent rest and was somewhat sane I had already gotten into a routine with my son and could tell by body cues what he needed. No harm can be done in researching and learning about this possible recently uncovered baby language, however. Check it out and see if it works for your newborn. If it does, great! If it doesn’t, you have lost nothing by it.

photo by Benjamin Earwicker


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