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Don't know what's troubling your fussy baby?

In a new DVD, Priscilla Dunstan offers help by teaching parents how to speak "baby" and answer their child's cries.

Wondering what your newborn is trying to tell you with her cries? Well, fear not. There is help. In a new DVD out this week, called “The Dunstan Baby Language,” Priscilla Dunstan, an Australian mother, says she has discovered that newborn babies have a language all their own. And if you understand it, you can reduce their crying. This, of course, is something every new parent wants to hear! Dunstan was invited to discuss her findings and her new DVD on “Today.” Here’s an excerpt where she writes more on the topic from Babytalk magazine:

How to Speak “Baby”

Priscilla Dunstan says babies share a universal language — one that moms can understand.

After a nurse told her not to worry about her baby’s constant colicky crying, Priscilla Dunstan, now 32, decided that there must be a better answer. As a professional musician in Australia with a “photographic” memory for sound, she began to keep notes on her newborn son’s wails, and, sure enough, detected a pattern — five specific sounds that he would make when he was hungry, tired, needed to burp, was uncomfortable, or had gas.

“These words are created when sound is added to a baby’s natural reflexes,” explains Dunstan, whose research on over 1,000 babies has led her to believe that these words are universal among infants during the first three months of life. “This system is about helping the mother to believe in her own intuition,” she says.

Before you get started, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Decode the pre-cry: It’s easiest to recognize the words in the earliest stages of crying — just the way it’s easier to understand someone when she’s not screaming at you, says Dunstan. By the time your baby has woken up the neighbors, it’s difficult to discern what she’s trying to say.
  • Listen for the dominant word: If you hear more than one word, act on the word that your baby is saying the most.
  • Shift your baby’s position: Having trouble hearing? Try sitting your baby on your lap or putting her over your shoulder so you can hear her more clearly. Surprisingly, placing your baby face down across your knees can be a good position for understanding her.
  • Try to hear the distinctive feature of each word: Listen for the “n” sound in “neh,” the word for hunger.
  • Keep trying: If you’re not sure what your baby is saying, just comfort her as you normally would and try listening next time.

Dunstan recommends practicing with the first three words for a week before moving on to the last two, since she says it can take time to tune your ear to interpreting your baby’s cries. And it goes without saying that if you’re not sure what your baby is saying, just trust your gut and comfort him the way you think is best. If you have concerns about your little one’s health, don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician.

Here are two words to get you started.

“I’m hungry!”

The word: Neh

Where it comes from: The noise made when a baby pushes his tongue to the roof of his mouth because he wants to eat, “neh,” is an infant’s sucking reflex with sound added to it.

“I need to burp!”

The word: Eh

Where it comes from: When a big bubble of air is caught in your baby’s chest, the sound you hear is “eh,” as your baby tries to get the burp out.

To learn the other three, plus watch an exclusive three-part video series that lets you listen in as Priscilla teaches baby language and infants echo back their words, visit B.