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Why do babies growl? Understanding your little one’s weird sounds

Is there anything sweeter than listening to your baby cooing and babbling? Even though you’re patiently waiting to hear your baby’s first words, those early squeals and giggles are simply delightful.  With each sound, your little one has been communicating with you even without saying their first official “Mama” or “Dada.” However, sometimes their sounds are less like something a sweet baby would make and more like a little animal.  

If your baby has added growling into their language skills you may be wondering why they are making that sound and what does it mean? Turns out, it all depends when and how they growl. Even though it’s strange, it really is pretty adorable. Here’s how to decode each of your baby’s growls.  

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Why do babies growl? Deciphering the new sounds

During those early newborn days, you quickly realize that each type of cry means something very different. One cry means she’s hungry, another cry for a diaper change, and yet another type of cry when she needs a cuddle. Just when you’ve finally figured out what each cry means, all of the other babbling, squeals, grunts, and growls start. Now you have a slew of sounds to decipher.

“I often reassure new parents about the noises newborns can make,” writes Dr. Samira Armin, a pediatrician at Texas Children’s Pediatrics Humble Fall Creek on the Texas Children’s Hospital website. “These noises are rarely explained in baby books and most people don’t warn us about them. These noises are also normal.”

The different types of growls

Even if your baby skips right over the sighs and squeals and gets right to the growling, the reason behind their new tiger sounds is actually pretty adorable.

Speech-language pathologist Diane Paul told Parents Magazine that your baby growling may start out as a reflex, much like crying and the other sounds he is learning to make. However, once your little one starts to growl, he may just like the way it feels and will continue practicing his growls. So if you hear a few growls during tummy time or echoing from his crib, it’s because the tickling in his throat is fun. Honestly, is there anything cuter than that?

Between 6 and 11 months old, most babies will begin mimicking sounds they hear. Your little parrot may start growling if she hears the dog make that sound, or if it’s in a song that you sing to her. So growling may be part of her new copycat skill.

Also around the same time, your little comedian will learn he loves to make you laugh. If he lets out a growl and gets a smile and giggle from you, there’s a good chance he will try his growling out over and over to keep you as a captive audience. 

Finally, you may hear growls that are your baby’s way of showing anger or frustration. After all, your babe doesn’t have the words yet to communicate those feelings and a growl may do the trick. If you aren’t spooning up her applesauce fast enough or she’s frustrated because she can’t reach her favorite toy, you might hear a few ferocious growls. 

Tummy trouble

Sometimes you’ll hear growls and grunts as your baby works on digesting breastmilk or formula. Often he’ll feel gas pressure and as he squirms and tries to relieve the pressure, he will let out sounds like growling. If you hear your baby making these sounds, pick him up and try patting him on the back or rubbing his belly. Normally these sounds will stop when he lets out a burp. 

Rest assured that there’s no need to worry about your baby growling unless she seems to be in distress, has a fever, or is struggling to breathe. If you’re unsure, it’s always a good idea to reach out to your pediatrician with any concerns.

Most times, those little growls are just your baby’s way of talking to you. Whether your baby is growling because he likes the way it sounds or he’s feeling frustrated and trying to communicate those feelings, growling is actually quite normal and the beginning of language development. Just be sure to get a few of the growls on video because once he starts chatting, you’ll miss hearing the sweet sounds of those tiny growls.

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