All About Talking
Communicating with babies and trying to understand their needs and wants can be tricky! Many people find it hard to decipher what their baby is trying to tell them. We often are busy, jumping from task to task, forgetting to slow down and really listen to what our babies are telling us.
So why is taking the time to communicate with our babies important?
Engaging in meaningful interactions with baby, that involve eye contact and respectful communication, helps to strengthen the bond between you. Your baby will feel loved and cared for. They will learn that their thoughts and ideas are valid and respected. They will feel comfortable communicating with you, developing their confidence and encouraging them to communicate more frequently. You will feel more connected to your baby and begin to recognize how they communicate and what they are trying to tell you. Your relationship will flourish into a respectful, two-way relationship, that brings a sense of connection and greater understanding of who your baby is. Taking the time to communicate with your baby helps them build a solid foundation for future success with social interactions and relationship building.
So where to begin. Well, the main thing most people think about when they hear the word communicating, is talking. So let’s start there.
Babies are born with the ability to communicate their needs and feelings without having to rely on formal language. However, there are many important aspects of communication that they learn from the special people in their lives, including language (verbal and non-verbal) and conversation skills.
Tips for talking to baby
- Talk, talk, talk! The more you talk the more they will learn! Talk about anything that comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be baby related or “baby talk.”
- Give them time to respond. Count to 10 (in your head) after each sentence. This gives baby the chance to process what they’ve heard and formulate a response
- Listen. A response may come in the form of babbling, cooing, laughing, crying or even silence
- Watch. Your baby will also communicate using body language and respond to you with pointing, gesturing, closing their eyes, making eye contact, looking away, scowling or smiling
- Respond. Once your baby has responded, you can now carry on the conversation by responding to what you have heard/seen from them. If they don’t respond after 10 seconds, carry on talking and repeat!
- Take a break. If baby begins to cry, fuss, whine, scowl, close eyes, look away, these are signs that your baby is done having a conversation. They may be feeling over stimulated and finding it hard to focus on you. They may need some quiet time, be hungry or tired. Watch and listen and respect your baby’s wishes. Stop when they are ready.
Some things to think about
Talking to your baby is fantastic and there are some additional ways you can maximize your chat time. These can help improve communication with your baby and strengthen your bond.
- Eye contact. When talking to your baby or communicating non-verbally (eg. stroking baby’s cheek, smiling at them, making funny faces, etc), try and make eye contact as much as possible! Newborn babies eyes are not yet fully developed and they will have a hard time making eye contact with you in the beginning. Most new borns can only maintain eye contact for a few seconds before needing to look away. The older your baby gets, the longer they will be able to maintain eye contact.
So why eye contact?
- Baby will be able to watch your lips moving and forming words, see how your facial expression changes, and notice your breathing pattern. All of these things are an integral part of communication. Your baby is learning not only words, but also how to execute them and express them through body language.
- Your baby is more likely to engage with you if you are making eye contact. They will communicate for longer and be more interested in what you are communicating. Imagine talking to a friend who keeps looking away or facing the other direction. Would you want to keep talking to them?
- Adult facing buggy/stroller. Many babies will spend a significant amount of time in a buggy. These times are perfect for communicating with your baby. This is hard to do when they are facing away from you, unable to hear you clearly or see your face. You are also unable to read their cues and respond appropriately. With an adult facing seat, babies are able to see, hear and respond to the person who is communicating with them.
You can use this time to talk about your surroundings, point out things you notice, talk about the noises and sounds you hear. Watch where baby is looking or gesturing and talk about what they have seen or heard. Label things (car, bird, cat) and make the corresponding sounds (vrrm vrrm, tweet tweet, meow!).
- Technology. Try to minimize distractions when having a conversation with your baby. Turn off the TV or close your laptop, put your phone down, turn off any loud music. All of these things will distract you and your baby away from your conversation. It will be harder to maintain eye contact and for baby to hear your voice. Your baby will struggle to know where to focus – should they focus on the TV or you? You will be tempted to look away from your baby, missing important cues they are giving you.
It’s fine to use technology, but when making a conscious effort to have intimate time with your baby, technology will only interrupt your precious one-on-one time and make it less enjoyable for you both.
So now what?
It can be overwhelming reading a lot of information at once and trying to put it into practice! We are all on a learning journey. Progress does not happen over night! Some days are so busy, so rushed, we don’t have the chance to focus on practicing or developing our new skills. You may get to the end of a day and wonder, “what did I actually do!?” No one is perfect, life gets crazy, don’t beat yourself up! Here are a few ideas on how to incorporate meaningful conversations with baby into your daily life, one step at a time.
- Schedule a time of day. Think about your daily schedule. When is your baby most content? After nap time, before bed, after eating? Choose a time that best suits you and your baby. Start with 3-5 minutes of one-on-one time, with no distractions (see technology above). Use these 5 minutes to try out some of the suggestions and ideas. Take your time, breathe, relax.
- Remember, no one is perfect. So you chose a time, had a seat, and made eye contact with your baby. Then your mind went blank! You have nothing to talk about, you are tired, you just don’t feel up for it. That’s OK. We are all human. All you can do is try your best, do what you can. Tomorrow is a new day.
- Incorporate conversation into your daily routine. Sitting down to have some quiet one-on-one time is not always possible. However there are many times throughout the day that you can talk with your baby. When you are bathing them, when you are out walking, at the grocery store or shopping (See adult facing buggy above), during meal times and while changing them.
- Practice. The more you chat with your baby and incorporate the suggestions into your daily life, the easier it will become. Soon it will feel like second nature! Keep at it!
If you have any tips or suggestions that have worked for you, please share! Questions? I’m here to help.