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Baby Language

Understanding Baby Talk

People say that moms can tell the difference between their newborn's cries. But, I felt like a complete loser when I couldn't distinguish the hunger cry from the tired whimper.

Then, I saw a special Oprah show that had me hanging on every word. Oprah's guest Priscilla Dunstan revealed five infant words and their meanings.

To see what the words are and what they mean,


Priscilla Dunstan was a talented violinist and opera singer who had, according to her father, a photographic memory for sound. She could hear a concert on the piano and play it back note for note.

Dunstan had her own child and became familiar with his language almost immediately. Curious to see if other children spoke the same lingo, she examined thousands of babies with worldly backgrounds. She tested her theory over nine years and through three independent international studies. In the end, her results confirmed what she had believed – there is a universal baby language, which is now called the Dunstan Baby Language. Here are the five basic words:

  • Eh – Burp Me
  • Eairh – I have wind (gas)
  • Neh – I'm hungry
  • Heh – Change me
  • Owh – I'm sleepy

After watching her explain her theory and then applying the lesson to my own child, I quickly realized that she was on to something. My daughter made those same sounds and often, they followed those examples.

For moms struggling to understand their babes, the $49 Dunstan System may be a good investment. For me, it was enough to just know the five "words" in my wee one's vocabulary.

Did your tot use these same sounds?

Join The Conversation
milosmommy milosmommy 9 years
We also watched that when my son was just a few months old and after listening to him, it was right on. I was happy to have learned about it.
Shannikan Shannikan 9 years
I have used this since birth (two 1/2 months) And it is a life saver. It really works just make sure u listen. I have not had any crying fits i cant solve within 30 secs.
Brendelwoman Brendelwoman 9 years
I'll have to start listening to my new little one. I remember when this lady was on Oprah and it certainly seemed fascinating. I tend to follow the Baby Whisperer techniques/routine. It is really hard for me to hear the difference in a cry and I look for other cues as well.
lickety-split lickety-split 9 years
yeah, no meaning to the cries of any of my babies. that time goes so quickly for the typically developing kids it seems really unnecessary to worry about a language. by 9 months they're pointing to what they want. and i never had any trouble knowing when they needed to be changed, lol.
schnappycat schnappycat 9 years
My son did say "neh" (it almost sounded like "no") when he was a newborn and we quickly figured that it was hunger. I was never really able to differentiate any other sounds he made, but am pretty sure he didn't do the others. I've never noticed him complain when his diaper is dirty--it doesn't seem to faze him. I'll admit I'm still not great at telling what he needs from his cries, but it's pretty obvious when he's tired or hungry from his demeanor.
LiLRuck44 LiLRuck44 9 years
I saw this lady when my son was just born. He certainly wasn't speaking that language. Baby Whisperer on the other hand....
Greggie Greggie 9 years
For the record though, I can't tell any of that from a newborn, it takes time to figure it all out no matter how many kids I have. And none of them made those sounds at all as newborns, they were all a few months old.
Greggie Greggie 9 years
I don't agree with her. I think it may hold true for some, but it's not a guarantee. My daughter makes the "owh!" one when she's happy and cooing at us. I think it's all in observing your own child's habits. With my boys, I could mostly tell from their behavior what they needed. My daughter's my first that her cries are pretty need-specific.
mini_pixie mini_pixie 9 years
I can't remember what my girl's noises were, but I'll be happy to use this guide when the new baby comes!
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