Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Breaking the Baby Language Barrier

If you've ever spent time in a foreign country you know how exhausting it feels at the end of a long day hearing only another language. The toll it takes on your brain can be maddening. While you try to process the new words, your body fights your brain to allow you to sleep. I imagine that this is how babies feel on some level during the first three months. It probably continues beyond that, but it's clear that babies have greater understanding than they let on early in life. Even the act of mimicking shows that they are beginning to understand our words and why we say them.

I like to keep things simple for Hannah during this early stage. Often I'll slow down my sentences or repeat words that she responds to. We also have one favorite nighttime lullaby. It's a helpful cue that it's time for bed and it keeps her from straining to understand a new song each night. Last month I started to learn and distinguish her cries. Often I find myself saying, "she told me she needs a new diaper" or "she says she's tired." When you start to think of cries as baby language, it's much easier to remedy what they need. Because she anticipates that I will respond, she trusts me. It amazes me how easy it is to calm her or ease her into a new situation. During her cold she even let me aspirate her nose without the slightest fuss!

Everyone tells you to speak, sing, and read to your baby. It's a joy to do this and it's important to listen to her, too. She can be so talkative when she plays independently with a toy or when we talk while I change her diaper. I have no doubt that this little girl will be a delightful chatterbox.

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