Transcript: How to Interact With a Newborn – Why is it Important to Talk to Your Baby
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called How to Interact With a Newborn – Why is it Important to Talk to Your Baby and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
After working with babies and infants over many years as a childcare educator, it has been my observation that a lot of parents do not know how to communicate with their little one, prior to them beginning to speak. Pediatricians and other professionals emphasize the importance of talking and communicating with your baby and the amazing benefits that result from these interactions, including brain development, social skills, and improved cognitive development. However, what is often lacking is actually instructing parents how to do it and explaining to them why it is so important.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of my baby massage courses is showing parents how to read their baby’s cues and get an understanding of their non-verbal communication. An essential part of my training, which is extremely important, is in showing parents how to talk and communicate with their little one and touch them in a positive, loving way.
In this week’s episode, I’m going to be talking about why talking and communicating and touch are so important and valuable for both you and your baby. Perhaps this is even more relevant as we slowly emerge from the pandemic, which for many has been a time of increased isolation, caution and worry. I can’t help wondering about the start in life that babies born during this time will have experienced.
In a recent episode, I spoke with early childhood interventionist, Jill Urbane, about language development in infants, and I’ll include a link to this in the show notes. I’ll let you know where you can find these at the conclusion of this episode, so please listen until the end.
During this episode, you’ll hear me talk about how you can encourage your child towards developing literacy and communication as soon as they are born, why baby babbling is the key to early speech skills and how you can help encourage it more and why you should avoid using baby talk and communicate with your baby in a similar way to how you do with other adults and friends,
And so, so much more.
I would like to share with you a quote from Dean Ornish MD’s book, Love and Survival, which I feel is highly relevant to what I’m sharing with you in this episode.
” Anything that promotes feelings of love and intimacy is healing. Anything that promotes isolation, separation, loneliness, loss, hostility, anger, cynicism, depression, alienation and related feelings often leads to suffering, disease and premature death from all causes.”
We all know that babies cry when they want something, but it is important to recognize they also communicate through their body language and facial expressions. In some instances if a child is not spoken to or touched, they will not cry as they begin to realize that their crying will not get any attention, so they remain quiet.
When I worked in childcare centers, looking after a number of babies at the same time, there were many times that these babies were placed in their cots with their dummy/comforter and patted for a few moments and then left to go to sleep. Most babies went straight to sleep, but there were of course occasions when they didn’t and we were unable to comfort them all and had to leave them to cry it out.
I found this hard to do and was always heartbroken with this approach that has always made me cringe! When I had a spare moment I would often go in and gently pick up these babies and give them a cuddle, letting them know that it was okay. I would talk to them and tell them that they’d had their bottle and they’d had a play, and it was now time to sleep. This often worked like a dream, relaxing the babies who would then drift off to sleep, and it also relaxed me and my colleagues.
Babies thrive on communication and touch, and this is how they learn to communicate and understand their world around them. When they are not spoken to on a regular basis, their vocabulary will not increase and they will also speak more slowly than if you speak to them. The consequences of not talking and giving your baby a loving touch can stifle their brain development. Therefore, growing up without being heard or spoken to can lead to a lifetime of social deprivation and isolation.
It is interesting to me that throughout Australia where I live, the community is complaining about children having lower literacy levels and there is increased pressure to start school at a younger age. In my opinion, many of them are simply not ready for school when they are aged under the current 5 years commencement. I can’t help wondering what percentage of these children end up like this due to their parents not communicating and reading to them when they were babies. It’s interesting to ponder, isn’t it?
It’s interesting to contrast this with countries in Scandinavia where school doesn’t commence until the age of 6 – 7 years of age.
I highly encourage parents to begin the path to literacy, talking to their babies from the day they are born. I also encourage you to read to your baby, even a simple picture book as early as possible. Don’t delay, and your baby will grow and develop into an alert, attentive being. Something worth bearing in mind is that babies can only see in black and white until they’re around 4 months of age, so save your money and just begin with a simple picture book containing black and white images/photos. It can be black and white family photos, or anything that is interactive for the baby. You’ll find plenty to choose from via online sites such as Amazon or from a local bookstore.
Babies learn to talk when parents and caregivers talk to them as part of their daily routines. There is no need to allocate separate time to do this. Just get into the habit of doing it throughout the day. You could do it whilst you are dressing or dressing your baby or doing the dishes or playing or giving them a bath for example. Some months ago I put together an episode titled ‘How to Bath a Newborn Who Hates Bath Time’, where I shared a number of ideas how to make this time enjoyable for both of you.
Always remember that babies love to hear your voice and this will help develop their vocabulary and will also calm them and relax you.
It is also important to remember that babies understand a lot more than you might think when you are reading to them or telling them stories. This boosts their brain power and sets them on the road to success when they later begin their schooling. Research on babies and toddlers has found significant differences in the vocabulary and language processing skills as early as 18 months.
I’m of course not suggesting that you try to develop your own mini Albert Einstein, but to talk to them every day. I suggest that a good starting point is getting into the habit of greeting them first thing in the morning, explain to them what your plans are for the day and just chat with them as you would with your friends and other adults. It is really that simple.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when talking to them is not to use what I call ‘baby talk’. It is much more valuable for them to hear you talking the proper way from the beginning, since this will build a richer vocabulary as they hear a wider variety of sounds. They’ll also be exposed to a wider variety of facial expressions. If you smile whilst talking to them and add other facial expressions, they will be watching and will learn to smile right back. If you make a funny face, they in turn will copy this, and this is how they learn to communicate and later begin using words.
Recently I was looking after a 2 month old baby, and I observed how she reacted when her grandmother was talking to her about her grandfather. I noticed how engaged she was as she listened and was making cooing sounds and smiling whilst watching her intently. This was such a delight to see, and I could tell immediately that her little 2 month old granddaughter was really taking in everything she was saying and talking back to her by cooing, making sounds and smiling.
Babies begin to babble from a very early age, long before they say their first word. This is their way of learning the rules of language and how adults use it to communicate. Your baby will begin by using their tongue, lips, palette and any of their emerging teeth to make these sounds. Expect them to cry first, then coo in their first few months, followed by babbling from around 4 months.
You may have heard your baby make little noises as they are lying down or while you are nursing them. These are their first vocal signs and here are 5 main stages of babbling. It is of course, important to recognize that every baby is unique.
From nought to 2 months they’re crying and cooing, from 3 – 4 months simple speech sounds such as goo, goo and from around 5 months, single syllable speech sounds, ba, da and ma, from around 6 – 7 months reduplicated babbling, repeating the same symbol, ba-ba, na-na and around 8 – 9 months, variegated babbling, mixing different sounds, ba de da. Many parents mistake this for saying ma ma da da, but what they are really doing is learning sounds and how they relate to each other. That does not mean they’re not saying those words just remember, they are just learning sounds at this stage.
When they are crying, cooing and gurgling, they’re developing long vowel sounds. You will recall I mentioned earlier about my observations of a grandmother interacting with her two months old granddaughter. She was cooing and gurgling whilst looking at her grandmother as she spoke to her. She was talking to her as she was learning the different sounds, as her grandmother talked to her. It was a delight to see how they both engaged with each other.
When they reach 4 – 6 months, their vowels and consonants begin coming together in single syllables. What they say may sound nonsensical but this is a result of them experimenting with different sounds. The key here is to engage and talk with them as much as possible to help them learn.
At 6 – 10 months, your baby’s expressive language will begin to change from those early coos and delighted squealing to a more experimental style of babbling. This is the early stages of communicating, using single sounds or gestures. This may occur as single syllables doubling, tripling, or quadrupling to create a string of sounds that they may repeat.
Again, this is why it is so crucial for you to talk to your baby as you would to a grown up. Using nonsensical baby language to communicate with them is not going to assist them in learning those all important consonants and vowels.
In finishing, I’d like to reiterate that no matter how well nourished and intellectually stimulated your child is, growing without human touch can stunt them mentally, emotionally, and also physically.
Touch and sound are the first sense they feel, so it is not surprising that talking to and touching your baby is so essential. This is why I am so passionate about what I do as a baby massage instructor, helping parents to bond with their babies and learn more about how to communicate with them.
If you would like to find out more about the wonderful world of baby massage, I have put together a FREE 17 minute video presentation, where I talk about the benefits of baby massage and how it can help you and your little one, and you can view it in the episode show notes, which can be accessed at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/131 and if you have any questions after listening to that, please do get in touch. I’m always open to helping and sharing my knowledge with parents.
I share each episode on First Time Mum’s Chat Instagram page, and you’ll hear me chatting live with folks I’ve interviewed from time to time. Please support me by following me and I look forward to meeting you during one of my lives.
Next week, I’m chatting with certified life and mindset coach, Amanda De la Madriz, who focuses on making motherhood easier for moms by helping them create awareness around the power of their thoughts and perspective.
Be sure to listen to this episode when it comes out next week and please subscribe to First Time Mum’s Chat via your favorite platform so that you can get quick and easy access to all our episodes when they are live.