Infant Communication

It’s never too early to communicate with your baby. A lot of mothers report feeling connected with their unborn babies and even dads can get in on the act by talking to the bump. Your baby develops hearing at about the 18th week of pregnancy and they are born already able to recognise their mother’s, and often father’s, voice. A new born will be comforted by the sound of his parents’ voices and their heartbeats as they hold him to their chest. Having spent 9 months safely cocooned inside listening to his mother’s heartbeat, the gurgling of her stomach and the gentle swooshing of amniotic fluid, the outside world must come as something of a surprise to a tiny baby. It is reported that babies who are held/carried/worn in the first six months cry less than those who spend more time in cribs, car seats and bouncers. The notion of ‘spoiling’ a baby by picking her up when she cries is outdated. Now, with the help of neuroscience, we can see that the earliest forms of communication between parents and their baby literally helps to shape baby’s brain, and determine how that amazing brain develops.

In her book You Are My World, Amy Hatkoff tells us: “Research now shows that the single most important factor in shaping a child’s future is the quality of the attachment to the parent. It has been confirmed that children who have secure attachments to their parents have more positive outcomes in a range of area including personality development, learning, and the ability to form healthy relationships.”

So what are the best ways to communicate with your baby in the first year of their life?

Firstly, touch. The simple act of holding, stroking, kissing and massaging your baby is the most basic and wonderful form of communication. When your baby experiences loving skin to skin contact they are flooded with Oxytocin, the ‘love’ hormone. This tells them that everything is ok, that they are being protected. It shows them that they are loved, that they are lovable. When this trust is built up in a baby it allows them to form lifelong healthy relationships. By spending time like this with your baby you will also learn to read his cues. You will notice when he wants to cuddle, coo and play; and when he wants some quiet time to relax on his own. Each baby is individual and will have their own unique personality and needs, and you, as his parents, will get to know him best through these loving interactions.

Eye contact is of great importance. When you gaze lovingly into your newborns eyes, you help to develop her self-awareness and sensitivity to others. What may seem like a simple act is actually helping to build healthy neural pathways in her brain. Babies aren’t shy and will simply adore staring at you and listening to your chat. She will even try to mimic you from just a few weeks old. The call and response of your talk and her babble form the basis for language acquisition and turn-taking, and strengthen the bond between you.

Like talking, singing to your baby will help reinforce that loving feeling and also introduces basic speech and language to him. The only way a baby will ever learn to speak is by being spoken to! And using songs, poems, rhythm, rhyme and repetition are fun and happy ways to increase your baby’s awareness of language and boost her vocabulary.

Speaking of boosting vocabulary, did you know that it’s never too early to read to your baby? In the first few weeks, they will enjoy black and white picture books with strong contrasting images. Later they will love to look at bright and colourful picture books as you narrate the story to them. Don’t forget to talk about everything you see in the book and ask questions about it all. “Do you see the dog? How many balls are there? What colour is the tractor?”. This interactive, or dialogic, reading will serve to introduce a rich vocabulary of words to your little one who will be happy to snuggle on your lap and read the same books over and over.

The power of music has been well documented over the years. Many people believe Mozart can boost your baby’s brain but the good news is Metallica will do just as nicely! Introduce a wide range of music to your baby and dance them around the kitchen like nobody’s watching. Gently rocking your baby to lullabies can sooth him at bedtime while swinging a little faster to a pop song will have him giggling his socks off. And as much as music can lift your soul, there is evidence that it can boost creativity too. So it’s a win/win for music appreciation!

In the later half of baby’s first year, introducing sign language can be a fantastic communication tool. You can sign with your baby from birth but at around 7 or 8 months they will develop the fine motor skills to sign back. It’s simple and it’s fun, and using simple signs with your baby has been shown to increase the parent/child bond, reduce frustration and tantrums, and accelerate speech. Research shows that responding to a baby’s cues are more important to brain development than any structured learning activity. Babies who feel understood learn more easily, have a positive sense of self, develop empathy and have a greater sense of who they are.

Peggy O’Mara, health and family expert said “The way you talk to your children becomes their inner voice.” I believe this begins from the very first time you talk to your baby. If you get in the habit of speaking with love and honesty to your child then this will set up a lifetime of positive communication. Of course there will be challenging times along the parenting journey – times when there may be anger, frustration, misunderstanding and miscommunication between parent and child – but if the groundwork of healthy, respectful relationship is laid then it won’t be such a long journey back to really connecting with your little one.

Happy communicating!


**Visit the ‘SuperHands Baby Sign Language’ website here: SuperHands Official Website