Baby Talk Is Bad for Everyone, Even Babies


"There have been reports around the office that you have been talking baby talk ... You are on record as saying wittle ittle, footie wooties, num nums, jammies, make boom boom, widicuwous, and Whode Island."

This is The Office's Michael Scott scolding Andy Bernard for his use of baby talk around the office. I'm not even from there, but I find the verbal butchering of Rhode Island particularly offensive.

But really, baby talk should never be used anywhere, especially not around babies.

I'm not sure why or when it happened -- though I suspect those Lolcats have something to do with it -- but baby talk seems to have become an acceptable part of the vernacular. Last week, for instance, I received an e-mail from Target advertising baby gear at "Sweet Wittle Prices." Nooo! W's do not replace L's. Or R's. And F's do not replace the "th" sound.

I hate baby talk so much that I don't even use it with my baby. Instead, I talk to her like a normal person. When I'm changing the diaper, I'm not all, "Wooks wike a wittle baby made a wee wee." Nor am I like, "I suspect that someone urinated." I just say, "Looks like you peed!" See? Normal person.

I have to wonder: Is baby talk even good for babies? One would think that using fake words while your baby's developing language skills would actually harm them. And wouldn't you know, there are studies out there that suggest this very theory. It should come as no surprise that researchers found speaking in complex sentences -- you know, with multiple nouns, verbs, or clauses -- sets a better example for little ones. 

Then again, there are studies that say it actually helps babies learn. But those explored adults speaking in higher, cutesier tones -- which language specialists refer to as infant-directed speech -- to babies and not the use of silly, made-up words. So it seems to me that even science agrees: No one should speak baby talk. Ever.

Except maybe the E*TRADE babies. They're funny.

What do you think of baby talk?


Image via ocean yamaha/Flickr 

baby development, language


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Danielle Gunraj

Baby talk is actually very helpful to babies. While some studies do suggest that more complex sentences are helpful (How old were the children in these studies?), other studies suggest that baby talk/motherese/parentese helps to familiarize babies with the sounds of their language, especially vowel sounds, which can be difficult. In addition to this, exaggerated intonation may help babies learn to differentiate between declarative sentences and questions, as well as the prosodic features of the language more generally. Furthermore, the high-pitched, overemphasized words help to draw and keep baby's attention on language. And finally, while complex sentences are wonderful, babies probably find it easier to deal with simpler utterances. If you’ve ever tried to learn another language, you know that it’s easier to understand a simple sentence than a more complex sentence. As a side note, babies who live in societies in which their caregivers do not talk to them tend to acquire language later than babies who live in societies in which caregivers do talk. And I’m not just some crazy person rambling on - I study psycholinguistics for a living.

nonmember avatar Mollie

I don't have a problem with baby talk or cooing at a REALLY little baby. One that is still learning SOUNDS and not trying to acquire language. I *do* have a problem with the woman in my office who constantly tells me that her "tum-tum" hurts or that she's "got the grumpies." I can't help but look at her and think that this is a woman with a master's degree in an office full of professional adults talking like a two-year-old.

And also, there is NOTHING ok about the E*Trade babies. They have got to GO.


I totally baby talk,  to babies I see,  the baby I nanny for,  and to my dogs.  I don't see how it is going to have a negative effect on them. 

Nicki_O Nicki_O

I talk in a higher-pitched voice with babies, but not stupid "baby talk." I'd rather my son learn how to talk correctly and not learn incorrect pronunciations and dumb, incorrect words.

ladykyr ladykyr

I never talked baby talk around my daughter, she only started talking baby talk after watching TV shows where the charecters would talk like a baby. We banned those shows from my house.

cmari... cmarie452

Baby talk is helpful for babies learning sounds and enunciation.  At a young age and infant can't differientiate between tones, hence the high voice.  When I child first speaks they essentially speak baby talk because that's all they can.  Mama, Dada, bubba, etc.  Once they reach that age is when the baby talk should stop, or at least most of it.  I still call my stomach my tummy and my toes tootsies, I admit it.  Either way you, whether you talk in baby talk or like you're talking to an adult the most important thing is that you talk to your baby. 

Meg Moore

ohz noes sum1 ettadak da lolz kittehs!!!

Bluel... Blueliner

I don't use it and I actually get mad at my mom for saying "words" like "Teefies" (Teeth) lol. DD was talking in short sentences and had a vocabulary of over 500 words by 17 months. So while I can't say FOR SURE that not using baby talked helped her I feel very sure that it didn't hurt! She is easier to understand at two than many 3 and even 4 year-olds.

melly... mellygraham

I never spoke baby talk to any of my children, I did speak in short sentences with a higher tone and animated face when they were young.  As they got older my sentences became longer and used words they did not know.  My husband once told me they dont know what that word means.  I just looked at him and said, well they will after I use it a few times, and sure enough they would stop ask what it meant or just pick up on it.  And they have excellent I have been told by many a complete stranger, friends, their pediatrician and now their teachers.  And as my children have become big siblings and repeat the younger ones, in the high pitched voice and animated faces also, I have to remind them not to repeat it the way the younger one is saying it, but the correct way so they learn. 

bwill626 bwill626

On a sidenote, I absolutely HATE when adults say they have to "go potty"

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