If you really want to know what’s going on in a baby’s life, all you have to do is spend some time with him. A baby will tell you exactly what she thinks and how she feels about this thing called life. Babies won’t use words, but if you look closely enough you’ll see they are constantly giving you clues. The cool thing about babies is they are not sophisticated enough to manipulate the truth. They’ve developed no defense mechanisms that mask their thoughts and feelings. They haven’t latched onto addictions that numb them out and make them go through life in a haze. Babies who are distressed, neglected, or abused will make this known through their bodies. Although they can’t use words, their bodies can’t help but absorb their stress and act it out. Keep in mind that the clues listed below are like puzzle pieces. They don’t tell the whole story: only pieces of it. Just because a baby is constipated doesn’t mean the baby is abused or neglected. Consider the piece in the context of the entire picture. Clues to what’s really going on:

  • Feeding problems (eating too much or too little)
  • Sleeping problems (upwards of 20+ hours per day or not at all, even when they are very tired)
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Flat affect (hard to engage or get a response)
  • Developmental delays
  • Over-developed startle reflex (scare easily)
  • Incessant crying or difficult to soothe

If you really want to know how a baby feels about their caregiver—whether it is a biological parent, relative, or foster parent—look no further than their interaction. Nine-month-old Alex was on his first supervised visit with his biological mom after being placed in foster care. His mom, who had untreated substance abuse problems, had left Alex alone on several occasions. Upon entering the visitation room, his mom scooped him up, hugged him tight and proceeded to engage him in baby talk and play. Alex just stared at her with a confused look on his face, as if he had never seen her before in his life. Babies only know truth and honesty; this is why Alex can’t “fake” a cozy interaction, even while adults can.