You would be surprised to know that a foetus starts to hear sounds as early as 18 weeks of pregnancy and starts to respond to them around 25-26 weeks of pregnancy. The response–kicking, trying to shift around in the womb–is her only way to communicate, yet. Once born, the whole world, and her environment is a huge big stimulat-or for her prompting her to absorb, process and react to the stimulants. And this stimulation–through baby talk–is very crucial for the development of the baby in various domains like social skills, cognitive skills, and pre-linguistic skills. Pre-linguistic skills are instrumental to the development of language. Most children acquire these skills as they grow, but stimulation from the beginning helps in bolstering the development. There are a few ways parents can stimulate their babies who are as young as 0-3 months old. Let’s discuss
- Language and communication skills of a 0-3 month old infant
- How you can boost this important developmental milestone
Language and Communication Skills of a 0-3 month old baby
In the first month the baby is too small to react to communicate in any other language besides crying. But, at this stage also, since her senses are fast developing, she is picking up on expressions and language. In the first month:
- Crying is the only way she would be using to get your attention for feed, comfort, change of environment or diaper. Crying is also a way the baby responds. A baby crying is the only way in which infants express themselves. To convey any need or discomfort, babies crying to get your attention. But for a new mom, the crying can sometimes be worrying (read hereto know what research says about it). She maybe crying out of hunger, physical discomfort, need a diaper change, want the comfort of mom, or be irritable due to inability to sleep, be exhausted and so on. The important thing to note here is that do not try to shush the baby into being silent since crying is her way of talking. You can try and decode her crying by working on elimination theory: check diaper, try feed, try sleep, try change of scenery, check for insect bites or rash.
- Though from high-toned wailing, her cries will gain a deeper tone as a few days pass.
- Close to 2 weeks of being in the world, she would briefly let out gurgling sounds when stimulated or happy. Especially after a feed, diaper change or when mom or dad play with her.
By now since you and baby would have settled into a more comfortable zone of feeding and diaper change, you will notice less crying and more reactions. In the second month, the baby’s repertoire of language and communication skills would have expanded.
- She will respond to playful interactions with soft coos, squeals, gurgles or deep delicious laughs. When excited, drooling or drool bubbles can surprise you. Through non-verbal communication she would convey to you clearly that she understands you and your playful ways. A delightful stage indeed.
- You will be able to differentiate her crying patterns of hunger from boredom. She will be using more distinct cries now. Whereas hunger or diaper change will be more of an immediate crying, crying out of boredom would be accompanied by a constant whining, fussiness, and general nagging. This should tell you that the baby wants a change of scene now or is exhausted for any play, any more.
- She will be intrigued by voices of people and will turn her attention to that person. Be it a family member or a stranger, human voices and words will attract her.
The foetus starts to hear noises and sounds as early as 18 weeks of pregnancy and by 25-26 weeks she will be responding to the sounds through kicks and nudges from the womb.
By now the baby would have firmly settled into the family and would have all of you wrapped around her tiny finger. An important developmental stage,
- Your first introduction to baby tantrums can happen anywhere around 3 months when she will decidedly cry for something—to be lifted by you, to be handed a toy which was taken away from her, to want to stay outdoors for longer. So, be prepared for a show of baby will.
- The baby will imitate the sounds you make or your facial expressions—so keep the drama going. Exchange social smiles, sing to her, coo, gurgle, make funny sounds, animal sounds…let your guard down and be a baby with the baby.
- From squealing, squeaking, and possibly to even screeching, she will be mastering newer sounds and noises. She will know how to manipulate her mouth to make newer sounds and would be experimenting with them.
- A good news here is that crying will no longer be the only way of communication. So, if the baby is crying incessantly it will be due to some discomfort.
How to boost a 0-3 month old baby’s communication and language skills.
Exchange Social Smiles
Exchanging social smiles often helps in getting the communication started and an initial kick to baby talk. Parents should often look at the child’s face, make eye contact, and while smiling at her should initiate conversation. Reacting positively to a child’s smile is also equally important since communication is always a two-way process. So the next time your little one, seems to be smiling, do not forget to give her your best smile back.
Baby Talk Whenever Possible
While talking to your child, make eye contact, smile and communicate with your facial expressions as well as verbal language. Children listen very attentively to their mothers and caretakers. They love looking at and listening to their mother’s voice. Mother can talk, talk and talk to the child about anything in the world. You can tell about the day’s events, someone’s coming or going, make imaginary plans of what you will do once the baby grows up–we will go to the zoo together and there we will see the monkey and the elephant–etc. Use lights, or colourful and moving objects to get your baby’s attention and encourage her to baby talk. This will be visually, auditorily and pro-prioceptively stimulating for the child.
Talking to your baby about the routine of the day–‘Now I am going to give you a bath. Let’s see if the water is warm or not’, will not only boost her communication skills, but also help her build her vocabulary. She will start understanding what water is and what bath time entails.
Also, you can start off early in pointing out relations to the baby such as papa, mumma, grandpa/grandma and siblings. The child will learn to relate to these people and build her vocabulary also alongside through this simple baby talk.
Motherese– also called Parentese, Baby talk, Caretaker speech, Infant-directed speech (IDS), Child-directed speech (CDS), is defined as a term used in the study of child language acquisition for the way mothers often talk to their young children. It is important for kids to hear as it encourages them to copy the adult’s speech and teaches them variable intonation pattern that is used during conversation. You may sound or feel silly but keep talking in the silly voice. It actually encourages your child to speak and communicate.
Hum and Sing to your Little One as part of Baby Talk
Singing is a very stimulating activity especially when accompanied by movements of hands and feet. If the mother/ father sings while holding the child in his/her lap, that becomes an enjoyable learning experience for her. Moreover, the rhythm and changes in the tone of the mother, help the baby try and imitate the same to some extent in the later years of development. In short, babies love being crooned to. You can sing rhymes, lullabies, religious songs, pop songs…anything and everything. And the best thing about it: however bad a singer you may be, for your baby you will always remain the best!
When pressed for time, or occupied elsewhere and you can’t indulge in active baby talk, you can play some soft relaxing music for the baby, or rhymes while you finish off your chores. Play different kinds of music to help her relax or stimulate her. This will also stimulate her auditory system, even though you may not be making active conversation with her, and keep away the loneliness since she is not able to see you.
Play with her Often
Playing with a ball while the child is in your lap, is another way of stimulating a newborn to communicate. Mother can simultaneously roll a ball towards the baby and talk to her. It is a great activity to develop visual tracking skill as well. Playing with the child using finger puppets and hand puppets is also a stimulus for her to develop communication skills.
Cute little social games like peek-a-boo tend to be second nature for parents of young children, but did you know that they can help promote communication skills as well?? Games like “peek-a-boo” and “so big” can help your child in a number of ways. If you do these games enough, your child will learn to predict what will come next which can help them make sense of that social interaction.
Read to your Child
You may be surprised reading this, but the benefits of reading to as young a baby as one month old are really huge. They not only introduce the child to the concept of language, but also subtly show him how the world operates and will be helpful in boosting her imagination later on. For the parent the advantage is too good to be ignored: when you run out of what to say to your little one, just plop yourself alongside her, take a baby book and read out. It will give your over-exhausted mind a break too. Reading to them can also be soothing—vary your tone and intonation to maintain interest and drama.
There are a number of baby-friendly books available in the market these days–from soft baby books, pop-ups, to books that the baby can carry with her during her bath time. Since she will not be able to sit up yet, you will need someone else to read out to her from the book while you give her a sponge or a bath.
Children from families who heard an average of 2153 words per hour had an average vocabulary of 1100 words by age of three, and children from families who heard on an average 616 words/hour had an average vocabulary of 500 words.The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3
Imitate her as part of Baby Talk
It is crucial to remember that a conversation is a two way process. It is not just about talking to your baby but also listening and responding. With a newborn, your options of reacting back are limited, no doubt, thus the best strategy for you to explore here is to react to her by imitating her. In speech therapy circles this is referred to as mirroring activity. If she smiles, smile back; if she gurgles, make a gurgling sound yourself. That will teach her the process of communication–since she will stop to hear your sounds out–and stimulate her to push herself to make more sounds and gestures.
The same applies to non-verbal communication as well
With little ones, non-verbal communication works as well as verbal. So, hug her often, kiss her, make eye contact–show through your expressions pleasure or displeasure, hold hands, lift her arms etc…all ways to speak to her.
When to call the doctor?
Remember each baby is unique and individual. Some may be responding to baby talk earlier while some may take their own sweet time, but generally experts believe that a baby should get startled at loud noises such as banging of doors, sneezing, falling things etc and give an appropriate response to it (mostly it will be crying). But if you feel your baby is missing out on these and does not react immediately or at all, it may be time to check with an expert on her development. Not to scare you, but rule out the chances of any problems or injuries with hearing, ear infection, or in some rare cases a cognitive disorder. You will also feel a dissonance if your baby is not reacting to your singing, clapping sounds, or conversations. She may not be able to smile yet, but once you start talking to her, she should be in a position to turn her gaze towards you and try and focus on your face.
Though you may feel that all the above mentioned efforts are a waste since the baby is too little to yet understand or respond to it, remember that a baby’s brain is always processing information. It is absorbing information, storing it and will use it later. Also, this is one milestone development which will not require very active participation from you all the time. Though experts would want you to sit and make time out to talk to the baby, on days when you are pressed for time, you can have the baby lie near you, while you keep talking to her from even a distance as you finish your chores. You would be surprised how sharp the little one’s hearing is. It also keeps the baby from feeling lonely, since even though she can’t see you, she can still hear you. There is nothing more comforting than a mother’s voice.