The Dunstan Baby Language method has been around for a while—but until you’ve been up at 3am with an inexplicably crying creature, it probably wouldn’t have been on your radar. But sleep-addled mums and dads attest to its simple usability, and, most importantly, accuracy. Here’s how the essential parenting ‘hack’ helps you to decode your baby’s litany of cries.
The basic premise of the Dunstan Baby Language is that newborns use only five ‘words’ between birth and three months, expectedly centralised on survival needs. And the ‘words’ remain the same irrespective of the baby’s ‘mother tongue’.
Once you’re correctly deciphering your little one’s cries, you can respond quicker, with less stress inflicted upon both you and bubs; the thinking is that this will ultimately strengthen the parent-infant bond.
Obviously, the so-called words aren’t learned, but rather a result of vocal reflexes to physical states. For example, when baby needs a feed, it will attempt to suck, and the cry combined with the motion produces a unique sound:
- The sound for hunger is “neh”
- The sound for sleepy is “owh”
- The sound for wind me/lower stomach pain is “eairh”
- The sound for burping is “eh” and
- The sound for change me is “heh”.
The creator of the language is mum-of-one Priscilla Dunstan, who used her ‘eidetic memory’ – a photographic memory for sound—to develop the technique. BabyLondon explains—
“As a teenager she toured Europe and Australia as an accomplished concert violinist and for ten years she then immersed herself in the world of opera as a mezzo-soprano. It was during this time the seeds of her incredible ability to understand, feel and interpret sound were truly sown. Ever since then, she says she has been able to hear a special “second language” beyond English which allows her to spot what sort of mood someone is in and even diagnose illness.”
Once she gave birth to her son, Priscilla was inspired to apply her rare gift to the realm of motherhood, picking up distinct patterns in babies’ cries and eventually developing the Dunstan Baby Language system.
According to BabyLondon 90 per cent of mothers found courses in the language “valuable”, with two out of three dads reporting decreased stress levels and “more positive marital relationships” following the training.
Priscilla has recently launched the Dunstan Baby Accreditation Programme for midwives, health visitors, doulas, and those working in baby care. She says: “The real beauty of this is that it doesn’t matter if you’re from England or the US, the language is the same.”