We have the first contact with the world before we are born. We usually do not count this time when we call our age, but we were already there. Women and men who are in good expectation know this all too well. The uterus enveloped us with a warm protective touch?
When we showed our presence in the last weeks of pregnancy, our mother could sometimes relax us by - through her own skin - ironing our back. So we reacted before we were born on the contact from outside. Also sounds like the heartbeat, the breathing and the voice of the mother calmed us down. We therefore communicate from the very beginning.
Even after our birth, contact, especially touch, is important at first. In the past, a baby was immediately taken away from the mother to be washed and weighed. We now see better that body contact is absolutely necessary for the health of the baby. The baby is now immediately after birth, just put on the mother's belly.
Crying, laughing, sucking, floundering ... communicating
For a newborn, body language is the first and only way of communicating. The child can not use words and sentences to clarify his needs. That is why it expresses itself through crying, laughing, sucking, jiggling and moving his arms.
In a short time the mother learns this body language of her baby well. For an outsider, for example, there is no difference between the one and the other way of crying the baby, but a mother flawlessly recognizes the way of crying whether her baby wants to eat or needs other attention.
And the father?
And the father? You may wonder. After all, in our time, is it important to involve father and mother equally in the care of the child? That is true, but women naturally have a much better feeling for the body language of their baby. A father may still sleep through the crying of his offspring, but that will not happen to the mother so quickly. (unfortunately men, better practice!) In the first weeks, proximity, body contact, body care and nutrition are the main ways of communicating and both father and mother play a role.
An experiment by the German emperor Frederick II from the thirteenth century showed that babies can not survive if they are not touched. This emperor wanted to find out through an experiment what the natural language of man is. He believed that if he would isolate a group of babies from their parents, these babies would only get to know each other. The babies did get food and drink, but they were not spoken to or communicated in any other way.
The Emperor hoped that in this way the babies would automatically develop a language with no outside influence: perhaps Greek, Arabic or Roman. However, it turned out that none of the babies survived the experiment. The emperor repeated this experiment several times to find out the reason for the infant mortality. This showed that babies can not survive without touch and nurture.
Source: Body language of babies ISBN 9789026961669
The first smile
After about four weeks the baby starts to smile. This makes the parents happy and encourages them to cuddle and give more attention. Even at this age our smile already ensures that we get something done. The smile remains a very important means of communication in our further lives.
Smile - Congenital reaction
Many people think that the baby learns to smile by mimicking their own broadly smiling faces, but that is not the case. Smiling is an innate reaction and babies will start to smile, regardless of what their mothers do or do not do. We know this for sure because even blind-born babies, who can never see the faces of their mothers, automatically start to smile when they reach the age of four weeks.
Congenital body language
Just like the smile, a lot of body language is innate. The facial expression, for example, which we use to express anger, fear, joy, sadness and surprise, is innate and the same everywhere in the world. Some innate body signs take on a different meaning later in life. Thus, according to Desmond Morris, the tapping of the lips at the kiss of love derives from the suckling reflex of babies.
Yes and no
The yes nodding and no shaking with which we denote consent and denial as an adult is appointed by this writer as a remnant of searching for and rejecting the maternal breast, respectively. The latter can, however, be questioned when we see that in some countries the shaking and kinking of the head has a precisely opposite meaning.
Learned body language
There is also body language that is taught at a very young age. Not only does the mother get to know the body language of the baby, the baby itself also undergoes a learning process from the beginning. For example, he notices the effect of his crying and laughing, making him more or less; will go harder or softer. Some parents still think that you can best reduce the crying behavior of a baby by letting him cry for a moment. However, the effect is often only that the baby starts to cry more and more. It is better to give the requested attention and it is actually hardly possible to spoil a newborn baby too much.
If the baby is a little bigger, he will also want to make grateful use of the effect of his crying if he does not get his way. In the presence of his parents he shows his feelings even without sound: the well-known pout. The first folds appear on the smooth skin. The parents who do recognize this behavior only laugh about it, and the expected effect does not last. It is a pity that the baby also does not realize how much anti-wrinkle cream is needed in later life, to eliminate the wrinkles that now arise.
A very small baby does not imitate the parents yet, but a little later he will start to babble afterwards the sounds that the elderly make and imitate their movements. On the other hand, parents will unconsciously exhibit behavior that makes sense to the baby. For example, an adult who feeds a child can see her own bite movements as she brings a bottle or a spoon to the mouth of the child. This is completely unconscious and this can be a comical face for others who look at it.
Different from culture
Learned body language can vary per culture and so do the practices around care. In many countries it is still completely normal for a mother to chew the food for her child. People in the West sometimes find this a dirty use.