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When your baby is crying, it can feel like sirens wailing, nails on a chalkboard and total heartbreak all at once. The worst part? You have no idea what she wants. (Milk? Sleep? Playtime with Mommy’s keys?)

Thankfully, there’s most likely a method to her madness. Here, eight visual cues and how to interpret them.

babyface1

Distress

What baby is doing: Turning down the corners of her mouth, with chin and lips quivering and eyebrows arching up toward the middle.

Translation: “I’ve just had way too much grandparent time, or am generally over stimulated. I’m about to lose it if you don’t take me to a quiet place, whisper ‘hush’ and rhythmically pat my bottom.”

babyfaceangry

Anger

What baby is doing: Scrunching his eyes, crying and possibly turning red. May swat at your hand when you reach for him.

Translation: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. Maybe it’s because you’re playing with my brother (babies as young as six months old demonstrate jealousy), or maybe it’s just hunger or fatigue. Snacks and/or sleep are your likeliest solutions here.”

babyfacehungry

Hunger

What baby is doing: Opening her mouth, with hands near her lips and a protruding tongue.

Translation: “Feed me!”

playfulnessbabyface

Playfulness

What baby is doing: Pursing her lips as though saying “Ooooh,” with face turned toward you and wide, bright eyes.

Translation: “I’m ready for action. Get down on the floor and play peekaboo with me, already.”

babyface5

Stress

What baby is doing: Turning his face away.

Translation: “I need a minute to process this--whether it’s the food I’m still chewing or my new surroundings or this weird playgroup filled with screaming one-year-olds. Please back off and let me chill for a minute--or 20.”

babyface6

Discomfort

What baby is doing: Pulling at his ears.

Translation: “I don’t necessarily have an ear infection, but I’m definitely uncomfortable. Could be my throat, my tummy (burp me!) or… you know…the fact that I’m growing a mouth full of teeth.”

RELATED: 8 Things to Do When Your Baby is Sick

babyface7

Self-soothing

What baby is doing: Twirling her hair.

Translation: "Hey, I'm calming myself down, and that’s a vital skill. Let me do my thing, unless I’m hurting myself--in that case, offer me a soft blanket or stuffed animal instead.”

babyface8

Lil’ Stinker

What baby is doing: Flaring his nostrils, pursing his lips and snorting.

Translation: "It might look like I'm angry or just smelled something nasty, but I'm actually being a ham. I know this face makes you laugh, Mom, so I'm going to milk it for all it's worth."

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