From the moment both my kids were born, I knew they were communicating with me. Even if it was non-verbally, I felt a connection that said “Feed me!” “I’m tired!” “You’re silly!” or my personal favorite, “Let’s snuggle!”
When their cries organized themselves into actual babbles, I felt like I was in a circus juggling act, catching random syllables and trying to toss matching ones back in an effort to deepen our communication. This was instinctive, and it was also what I remember my mom doing with us -- but was it actually helping?
A pediatrician says absolutely -- babbling back is what helps babies turn random sounds into language.
Fun fact: When babies start babbling, they make the same noises no matter where they are. It’s not until their second year that their dinosaur noises start sounding like French or Urdu. What that means is that they can go in any direction, and they’re looking for us to set the pace. We do that by talking to them.
The first 6 months, baby noises consist of screaming, growling, and cooing. Oooch, that cooing! Delicious.
Then, starting in their second 6 months, they start making recognizable syllables that we, as parents or caregivers, can at least pretend are words. They start to make both vowel and consonant noises.
This is where it gets interesting. Babies aren’t born knowing how to put their lips together, force air through their noses, and make an M sound. They make it because they hear it, from our mouths, and their little baby brains busily get to work trying to figure out what, on their end, they can do to replicate that sound. Long before their first words, they're putting together the consonants they'll use for the rest of their lives.
Sounds like hard work. No wonder they sleep so much.
Interestingly, hearing speech on TV doesn’t have the same effect. It’s those moments when parents respond to specific babbles -- that’s when babies learn the most about how to make sounds.
Babbling is a sign that a baby is curious, interested, and ready to learn. They’re doing everything they can to get you to talk to them, tell them what stuff is, and respond to them.
But you knew that, right? It’s nice when science catches up to us moms.
What do you and your baby "talk" about? Tell us in the comments!