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How to Best Communicate with your Baby

11 February 2023

From the minute they are born, your baby communicates with you. Babies use cries, noises, body language, and expressions to grab your attention. To respond, use a similar combination of sounds, attitudes, gestures, and body language.

‘Serve and return’: getting a reply

Communication is about sending and receiving messages. When your baby communicates to you, they expect a reply of some sort. It’s like a feedback loop; when your baby cries, they want to be acknowledged and they’ll be satisfied when their needs are met. Good communication, therefore, includes a response from you. This response might be something like a feed or nappy change, or it might come as a smile, a sound or touch. The baby ‘serves’ and you ‘return’. Studies have shown that these ‘serve and return’ exchanges are the foundations of children's early brain development. It’s beneficial, therefore, to tune yourself into your baby’s attempts at communication and get into the habit of acknowledging them.

Verbal communication

Babies respond well to changes in pitch and tone of voice, even if they don’t understand the words, so varying the noises you make to your baby, using funny sounds and a high-pitched, sing-song voice is great for communication. It’s also beneficial to talk to your baby, even if they don’t understand. A good tip is to outwardly narrate along with whatever you or your baby are doing (this can feel very therapeutic for you, too!) Babies also respond well to hearing their own coos and noises echoed back to them, so go ahead and either imitate their sounds, or make up some of your own for them to copy.

Expressions and gestures

It’s often said that over 70% of communication is non-verbal. This is as true for babies as it is for anybody else. Your baby will pick up on your facial expressions, body language, touch and gestures just as much as they’ll pick up on verbal communication. Often, it’s a good idea to use some of these methods of communication together. Showing your baby how you react to something using many of these methods - for example, smiling, hugging, and cheering at once - is a great way to build communication skills.

Baby sign language

Baby sign language is the concept of using easy hand gestures to facilitate communication between adults and babies. Simple words like "milk," "more," "help," "yes," and "no" are represented by actions. Although numerous organisations use many of the same common gestures, there is no universal technique of baby sign language. In truth, any gesture can work as baby sign language, provided you and your baby both know what they mean. You might even have started this inadvertently. For example, if your baby points to the fridge when they want milk, or if you recognise a certain little noise they make when you go near the biscuit tin. More formal baby sign language can benefit your baby by easing communication, advancing neural development, boosting self-esteem and helping language acquisition.


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