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Talking to your baby

October 22nd, 2015 | Blog

Our extended family has a new baby in the USA and his mum sent me this link:


I can’t exaggerate about how important this article is. The basic message is that talking to babies is important; there is a clear connection between talking to your baby and their later achievements in life.

In exploring this concept, there were some key take-home messages for me:

  • The number of words spoken to a child varies dramatically
    • in some families this was as low as three million words per year and in others up to 11 million words per year
  • IN ADDITION to the number of words, there were two other major points.
    • The words need to be spoken to the child. Technology i.e. a TV, does not work nearly as well in developing babies’ brains
    • the emotional message needs to be positive “Why are you messy?” does not have the same positive impact as “Why do I love you so?”

These messages touched a chord with me.

In my work with mothers I see parents who are tired and then when they are rested and in a great sleep pattern. At a second consult, after resolving a sleep problem, it is obvious that the interaction between parents and children becomes richer and more positive.

Talking to your baby is important!

Talking to your baby is important!

To state the obvious, who has the time to talk at a rate of 11 million words per year when you’ve been up five times a night? Fathers, of course, are aware that if their partner is exhausted the energy that she has for their adult relationship is decreased. It is routine for me to have mothers report at a first visit that they are being hypercritical of their partners even though they don’t deserve it. Once they are sleeping well, the relationship improves on many fronts.

When I see mothers in their antenatal months and then follow the baby from birth, it is self-evident when sitting with parents that their affection for their babies is strong, positive and effortless. A baby who sleeps well is easy to love. They are easy to talk to and in fact will respond by ‘talking back’ early in life. In addition, the descriptions that the mother puts into her words become highly positive.

It has always impressed me when talking to mothers about how well they are doing as mothers (i.e. when they are achieving great sleep or great feeding and excellent growth) they will almost always give their child a squeeze, a kiss and say words to effect of “good baby”. While the mother has put in the work, they allocate credit to the baby. Obviously this is a great place to be in terms of the child’s emotional well-being.

So what is the key message?

Achieving high quality sleep provides benefit for every member of the family and leads to behaviour which enhances communication between parent and child. High quality communication between parents and children has lifelong benefit.

Best wishes and sleep well.

Dr Brian Symon

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