Baby Behavior

Babies tell us what they want and need through sound and movement. Learn what to look for to become a more confident parent and caregiver in the information and links below. Three short videos can also be found in the Quick Links section for more tips and suggestions for new parents.

What is Baby Behavior?

Babies communicate to their world by the different ways they behave. Baby behavior includes the noises and movements babies make. For example crying, smiling or sucking on their hand. Since newborns and older babies cannot speak right away - it is important to understand what your baby is trying to tell you through their behavior.

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Baby Behavior Campaign

Dr. Jane Heinig and colleagues at the University of California Davis studied baby behavior to help parents understand their babies. This information is part of a campaign that has resulted in:

  • An increase in exclusively breastfed babies
  • A decrease in babies being formula fed
  • Less overfeeding of babies

The Baby Behavior Campaign includes three main sections which includes Baby Cues, Baby Crying and Baby Sleep. All of this information can help caregivers respond appropriately to their baby's needs and feel more confident as a new parent. 

Baby Cues

  • Babies are born with the ability to communicate through noises and movements.
  • Recognizing baby cues can help parents find out what their baby is trying to tell them, and respond more quickly. For example a newborn following your voice and face is ready to interact, learn and play.
  • Babies show you many different hunger cues such as sucking on their hands and wrist or moving their mouth or tongue. This is the perfect time to feed your baby.
  • Learn more about cues and how to respond to them from the Baby Cues (PDF) pamphlet (español) (PDF).

Baby Crying

Adequate Sleep

  • Babies sleeping patterns are different than adult sleeping patterns since they may only sleep a few hours at a time.
  • Even though newborns wake often they can sleep a total of 14 to 16 hours within a 24 hour day.
  • Your baby's sleep can be unpredictable the first 6 weeks of life.
  • Discover more from the Healthy Sleep for Baby (PDF) pamphlet (español) (PDF).

Tips for Parents with Newborn Babies

  • Sleep when your baby sleeps.
  • 90 minutes of uninterrupted sleep can help you feel more rested.
  • Babies will cry less as they get older.
  • Noises and people can make your baby tired.
  • Calm a fussy baby by using the same repetitive motions like rocking or changing the environment, such as moving to a quieter or darker room.
  • Learn more about signs of hunger and fullness (PDF) | (español) (PDF).
  • Learn how to bottle feed your infant using the paced bottle feeding method.
A mom, dad and baby
A mom holding her baby and looking in to each others faces
A mom smiling at her newborn baby

Be patient while getting to know your baby's cues, crying, and sleep patterns. Use the column on the right to access quick links and FAQs for more detailed information. You will understand your baby in no time and form a special bond that will last forever.