Parenting Science: Dunston’s Baby Language
The premise behind this theory is that there are specific universal vocal reflexes that account for five different cries made by newborns. Dunstan describes these sounds as pre-cry language and claims she has a photographic memory which allowed her to identify and decode these sounds.
According to Dunstan, the five universal pre-cry sounds (or sound reflexes) used by infants are:
- Neh (I’m hungry)- This sound is produced when the sucking reflex is triggered, and the tongue is pushed up on the roof of the mouth. Other signs may include turning the head from side to side or sucking on fists.
- Owh (I’m sleepy)- The sound is produced much like an audible This pre-cry sound has a round oval-shaped mouth associated to it. The Owh sound often comes just before other signs of the infant being tired such as jerky movements, pulling ears, arching their back and rubbing their eyes.
- 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. This cry contains a distinctive breathy “h” sound, similar to panting.
- 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. This sound is often more urgent sounding than the “eh” sound reflex.
- 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. This sound is often produced as short, discrete sounds “eh, eh, eh…”
This theory has received a great deal of criticism in that it has not be subjected to rigorous testing or research replication. There was a push to get this information on the market to help families and thus it has not been peer reviewed. That said, it may be useful for parents who use this theory as informational to help them become more attuned to their baby’s cry. I know I’ve heard the neh and heh sounds clearly and have been able to address Ashton’s needs more efficiently.
For more information about Dunstan Baby Language (DBL), see: