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Baby Communication: The Essential Guide to Understanding Your Baby

Baby Communication: The Essential Guide to Understanding Your Baby

Babies don't usually talk until well into toddlerhood; the average child can start to string together sentences between 18 months and 2 years old.

There is nothing as sweet as the baby phase. Soon those gentle little coos will turn into adorable words, but for now, you're stuck guessing what your baby needs. 

While they won't be able to ask for milk or a diaper change just yet, if you pay close attention, you'll notice that there are trends in the way your baby communicates their needs. 

Besides facial emotion and body language, there are also distinctive types of baby cries that can alert you to whatever the problem is. Remember that each baby is unique, so it'll be up to you to recognize the cues.

This baby communication essential guide will help you understand just what it is that your baby is trying to tell you. 

The Building Blocks of Baby Communication

Touch, sounds, and meaningful glances; the beginning of your baby's life is full of communication. 

From the moment they enter the world, your baby is paying attention to everything around them. Through their senses, they are able to absorb new information all the time. This constant stream of knowledge and awareness will help them gain the ability to communicate. 

Make sure to talk to your baby, imitate sounds, and aid them in this communication journey. 

Crying 

Babies are born with the ability to cry. But what does their cry mean? Do they have a dirty diaper, are they hungry, or are they tired?

As your baby grows, they'll acquire new skills to communicate with you, but in the meantime, the cry may be the only way they can get their point across to you.

An upset cry may sound choppy and high-pitched, while a hungry cry might be a bit lower and short. 

Pay attention to their cries and what actions soothe them. Over time, you may recognize patterns in your baby's crying. 

Gestures

A reach up to your breast can mean that your baby is hungry. A nuzzle can signify that they are tired.

Use the sounds that accompany the gestures to best decipher what your little one is trying to say. 

When Should I Get Help?

If you hear a painful sounding cry or an unusual cry, make sure to get medical attention right away. It could be nothing serious, but crying is the major way your little one is going to communicate with you. 

Another thing to pay attention to is new sounds accompanied by odd behavior. If your baby is eating less, has fewer bowel movements, or is seeming less active than usual, call your doctor for advice. They could be sick or have a food allergy

Wunder What Your Baby's Saying? 

At Wunder, we are here for every step of your little one's adventure. From baby communication milestones to the best ways to feed your toddler, we cover the A to Z's of parenthood. 

On the go? Be sure to check out the Wunder Baby Tracker App to help keep track of every important moment you encounter on this beautiful journey.

Does "baby talk" REALLY help your baby's language development?

Does "baby talk" REALLY help your baby's language development?

Using Parentese Baby Talk to Help Your Baby Grasp Language

The way you talk to your infant can have a big impact on their language development. In fact, according to recent research, parental language input is one of the best predictors of children’s language achievement. These days, experts recommend parents use “parentese” rather than traditional baby talk. In this article, we’ll explain parentese, and how to use it to advance your baby’s language skills.

Although still a form of baby talk, parentese differs from traditional baby talk in a few important ways. In traditional baby talk a parent might say “How’s mama’s widdle baby today? Do you want your babaaa?” in a high-pitched, cooing tone of voice. While cute, this type of baby talk employs made-up words and incorrect grammar; neither of which help to develop language skills. So, to summarize, traditional baby talk:

  • Has a higher pitch than adult speech
  • Has same cadence/tempo as adult speech
  • Uses made-up words
  • Uses incorrect grammar

Parentese (sometimes referred to as “motherese”) is a type of back-and-forth baby talk that uses a higher pitch, a slower tempo and more exaggerated intonation than normal language. It is a type of baby talk that encourages a baby to respond (even with just coos and babbles), and has been shown to lead to advances in children’s grasp of language. In parentese, the higher pitch and happy tone of traditional baby talk remain, but the tempo slows down and adult grammar and words are used. So, instead of “How’s mama’s widdle baby today? Do you want you babaaa?” you would say “How is mama’s little baby today? (pause for reaction/response). “Are you hungry?” (pause for reaction/response). “Should mama get you a bottle?!” (pause again). To summarize, parentese:

  • Has a higher pitch than adult speech
  • Has a slower cadence/tempo than adult speech
  • Uses adult words
  • Uses correct grammar
  • Employs pauses to allow for response/reaction

Parentese is essentially proper adult speech delivered in a higher pitch and slower cadence with pauses for response. A recent study showed that babies of parents coached in parentese showed significant gains in conversational turn-taking and vocalizations between 14 to 18 months old. 

Still not sure how to use parentese with your baby? We love this parentese guide created by the Center for Early Literacy Learning. Give their ideas a try and see if your baby shows positive signs like:

  1. Getting excited and making noises in response
  2. Looking intently at your face and mouth
  3. Responding differently than to adult speech

You want the best for you baby (of course!) and adopting parentese early on is a great way to boost language skills; giving your little one a leg up for the future.