Updated: Nov 8, 2019
I've written a few post on talking, you to your baby and your baby to you, stressing the importance of talking to them and listening and encouraging them to talk to you. As I've said many times it's not English in those first few months of communication but they all seem to have a lot to say! But this blog is dedicated to my hubby who said to me today, I was using a baby voice, why was I talking to her in a baby voice. He felt it was not needed. Let me set the scene and the record straight. I was giving our wee one a 'polish ' after our shower, she loves getting in with me, but thats another blog. A polish is a vigorous rub down with a towel that leaves wee one dry and in fits of giggles. While I was doing this , I was telling how beautiful all her body parts are to me as I dry them. Kissing her tummy and doing raspberries, another fit of giggles, kissing and touching toes , etc. All in a sing song voice, ( high pitched but soft , usually with rhyme in the lexicon, toesey wosey etc ). It’s that he had the problem with. We all do it instinctively. And it has been proven that our natural predilection to, is right on the money. So ignore my husband and I’ll tell you , why and how you should to do it
High pitched cadence - when you talk to your baby in a higher pitch , it switches on their brainwaves and syncs with your voice allowing them to make connections and kickstart learning. It has been proven in studies by Cambridge University who have coined the term Motherese that the 'more of their mothers voice your baby hears at this pitch the better language development'. Link below , to the BBC Page if you want to read the study. ( it's just one page summary but so interesting https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-38002105 ) So our cutesy voice is exactly what we should be using to communicate right from the get go with our wee ones.
Nursery Rhymes, the best and easiest way to use this sing song language for your baby is to repeat over and over songs that are like ear worms for both of you. You had them sung to you , most have a very similar pattern of tune and words and repeat verses so easy to remember. Plus you don't look so silly to yourself and partner and strangers in the park singing them rather than the weather forecast to your baby. But as I have no shame and am aware of the importance of Motherese for my baby, I try to use it in all my verbal transactions with her where ever we are.
Once they are older and starting to speak, incorporate
Corrections, when they do start to copy you and talking, try to form English or your chosen language if you are bi lingual , they won't get it right first times. But you need to encourage them in every way , praise praise praise, be it a smile, a yahoo , a clap, a pat on the back or cheer leader moves, ( I have been know to throw some shapes in the privacy of my own home ) And correct them at the same time. Say the word they are trying to say the right way, if you say it, as cute as their pronunciation is, wrong , they will continue to 'get it wrong'. They are looking to you to lead them.
For example, my wee one is fascinated with shoes. They get rearranged at home, pilfered from strangers in a soft play if they are unguarded and she loves putting on her slippers in the house and sneakers when we are leaving to go outside. This is her first word that she is choosing to attempt and it's not an easy one. We have encouraged the mumma and dada but this is something she is very keen to say herself ! It comes out fuze. Now I know she's trying to say shoes as she is handing me the objects at the same time. It is wonderful watching her brain work. She knows she's not saying to quite right and many attempts are made. I help by saying shhhhhh ouse.... Over and over allowing her to hear the letters. She will get it. But I have to be careful not to mimic her and get her to copy me, as she will starting calling them fuze if I don't gently correct her.
Not just Mums. Although babies respond better to their Mothers in the first few months , this is by no means just a two member club. Anyone interacting with your child on a regular basis, carers, grandparents and especially Dads should use this way of taking to them. It is science, but just not rocket science that your baby is that cute , it brings out , that sort of way talking to them anyway so go with it. You can be safe in the knowledge that your are doing the exact right thing for cognitive development and speech.
You naturally sing softly to your child from the day they were born , be it a hum in your chest to reassure them or help them to sleep. To music at a group or in the car on in the house or just counting their fingers and toes. You naturally raise your pitch when you talk to them to match the leap in your heart that you feel when you see them . This is all the perfect interaction and don't let anyone tell you to do different in those first few years. Once they are bigger you can talk in a more normal way to them. But for now you can say you definitely have your own language of love ... Motherese.