Although it seems that in the first few weeks and months of your baby’s life, he is only sleeping, eating, crying or hiccuping, experts say there is something much more going on in their brains.
Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist and author of “What’s Going On in There” says, “The only thing we know that makes babies smarter is talking to them.” So talking to your baby every chance you get from the day they’re born will help them develop language and pragmatic skills, and their busy brains are processing it all. Language isn’t learned, it’s acquired. Babies absorb every word you say and bank it in their brains for immediate or later use, depending on how old they are.
Q: Can you tell us how to talk to our babies?
A: Great question! In the first few months of life, use close face-to-face contact during awake times. Respond to your baby’s cooing, or their “oohhhs” and “uuhhs” by repeating their sounds and then adding some more conversation. We also use motherese, or parentese; that “baby talk” way of communicating with that’s typically high pitched and sing-songy. That type of talk is great for baby’s language development. They like higher pitches because it’s easier for them to imitate. After all, they have tiny voice boxes!
Q: I’m sure many new parents that are home with their babies feel a bit overwhelmed at times. What suggestions do you have for them?
A: Being a parent is hard! I’m a new mom myself, and admittedly have those silent moments when you’re trying to juggle a wiggly baby on a changing table. Babies thrive in a nurturing and stimulating environment. So, you’re already doing a great job! Also think about certain times of day that you’re could talk through. Daily routines are great opportunities for bombarding your baby with language. For instance, when you’re feeding baby, going out for a walk, or getting ready for a bath. You might say, “Mama’s going to take off your clothes, then we’re gonna take a bath. Are you ready to splash in the water?”
Q: Any other advice you can offer new parents?
A: As much talking as you do with your baby, be sure to listen to what they have to offer back. The waiting is just as important as the talking. As we’ve all heard, the time really does go by fast, so taking a few extra moments to be present and remember truly leaves sweet marks on your heart.
Erika Cardamone, a speech-language pathologist from San Francisco agrees: “Babies are listening to the sounds in their environment from the very beginning, and in the first three years of life, your baby’s brain triples in size. Every different word that you say to your child is like a building block in their brain. In fact, research shows that children that are spoken to frequently in their first few years have stronger academic and reading skills later in life, and stronger cognitive development.”
You can find Erika Cardamone swooning over cheese anywhere in the city by the bay. When she’s not searching for umami in her local eateries, she’s building forts and having dance parties with her toddler and husband in their San Francisco apartment. If you want to know what she’s thinking, she’ll tell you at her blog over at TheSpeechies.com. Erika has been a speech-language pathologist for 10 years and is the creator of Baby School, the place to be to never have an awkward moment with your baby again.