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Responding to your baby's cues

Your baby is unique and has their own personality.

Children can be different in:

  • their need for sleep
  • how they can be soothed
  • the way they respond to hunger, discomfort, heat, cold and being handled by you

Cues are a baby’s way of communicating of what they need. These are physical signals like crying. It may take time for you to learn what your baby’s cues mean and how to respond.

What you might notice

Cues your baby makes may include:

  • looking unsettled
  • yawning
  • shutting their eyes
  • crying

For example, signs your baby is hungry are called early feeding cues.

They include:

  • eyes fluttering
  • moving their hands to their mouth
  • making mouth movements
  • moving towards your breast or turning their head when you touch their cheek

Reasons why your baby is trying to communicate include:

  • tiredness
  • feeling lonely
  • hunger
  • being too hot or cold
  • a dirty nappy
  • being uncomfortable

How to learn what your baby is trying to tell you

Every baby is special and unique. Take time to get to know your baby’s cues.

As you spend time with your baby, you'll learn:

  • what they need
  • how to respond to them and comfort them
  • what touch, sounds and environments they enjoy

This helps you develop your relationship with them.

Some babies love rocking motion or soft music, or being outside on a calm day. Other babies squeal with delight when they are excited or some toddlers run with joy when they are happy.

You may need to help your baby cope and adapt to things that unsettle them. These could include bright lights or going into a new environment. For example, they may need to hear your voice for reassurance.


Crying is the main way babies and young children tell you they're distressed or that they need you. You will get to know what the different cries mean over time, but it is often trial and error in the early days.

Why babies cry

Sometimes your child will be soothed by your response. Other times they will simply need you to be there when they are distressed.

Learning the ways your baby likes to be soothed helps them to experience and manage their feelings. This is the beginning of what is called emotional regulation.

Responding to baby cues - infant mental health

Page last reviewed: 12 September 2022
Next review due: 12 September 2025