Talking to your Baby- why it’s important to talk with your non-verbal children.
It may feel silly at first, talking to your baby. You might think “my baby can’t understand what I am saying, so what difference does it make?” Even though your baby may not be able to understand what you are saying, they are listening and picking up cues from your tone of voice. When you take the time to talk to your baby about what you are doing and what is coming next, you are including them in the process of daily tasks. Diaper changes, getting ready for sleep, feeding, bathing, are all activities you do with your baby, not to them.
When you include your baby in what you are doing by talking to them, you give them the opportunity to participate. By slowing down, and watching your baby’s reaction, you are creating the beginning of a dialog between you and your baby. This is how communication is formed. It is a back and forth dance that begins with awareness.
What you say can be very simple. Something like “I’m going to pick you up now.” And then you watch to see that your baby has heard you. Even though your baby may not understand your words, they are picking up on your tone, and watching your body language. Even young babies are very good at hearing tone and intention. When you are calm, careful, and attentive, your baby will be able to respond to your verbal cues with their own “language.”
Babies are attuned to the people that care for them, and if you watch closely, you can see they have their own body language that lets you know how they are responding to what you are saying and doing.
Here are some phrases you can use when you are talking to your baby:
“It’s time for a diaper change. I’m going to pick you up and set you down on the changing table.”
“Let’s get you ready for a nap. It looks like you are getting tired. I see you rubbing your eyes.”
“I’m going to lay you down in your cozy bed. You are safe here. I’ll be close by. Have a good rest.”
“It looks like you didn’t like coming out of the tub. The air is cold on your skin. Let’s wrap you up in this warm towel.”
Of course, some of what you are doing is guessing what your baby might be feeling. But by naming it when they are young, you are developing the skill of paying attention to what you see, and saying what you think might be happening. Eventually, your baby will make it clear with their own responses whether you are on point or not.
And, do keep in mind that you don’t want to overwhelm your baby with too much chatter. Keep your sentences short and simple and pause so you give your baby time to absorb what you are saying. You don’t have to keep a running monolog going. You are setting up a back and forth “conversation” even if your baby’s end of it is in grunts and coos.
Reach out if you are feeling stuck with what to say to your baby. I’d be happy to help you navigate the world of talking with babies.
Disclaimer: Elizabeth Green's Early Parenting Sleep Consultations and written materials are for educational purposes only and are not meant as medical advice. All spoken and written information is to be used at each parents' discretion.