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Speaking 'Baby Talk' to infants isn't just cute: It could help them learn to make words!

Happy New Year to all parents! We hope you welcomed the new year in style, surrounded by magical firework displays, among a circle of loved ones, with revived hope and wishes for what is to come.

Since it is the start of the year, some new research has come to light about how parents and caregivers support language development in babies, and you might be a little surprised. Did you know that one way that you can help your baby’s speech development is by speaking more baby talk?

We may not realise it, but baby talk comes naturally to most of us. Often when interacting with babies we heighten pitch, slower speed and even exaggerate pronunciation, and this not only gets babies smiling and waving their tiny fingers around us but also helps them make sense of what we are saying.

What is the new evidence and where does it come from?

New evidence from Florida university can have another benefit, it can help babies learn to produce their speech. In the study, the researchers altered the frequency sounds to imitate either a baby or adult vocal tract and then tested how babies reacted.

Results showed that 6–8-month-old babies displayed a distinct preference for speech with resonances specifying a vocal tract that is similar in size and length to their own. Whereas 4–6-month-old babies do not have that preference, suggesting that older babies' emerging ability to control their voices and make words out of jibber-jabber could be what makes the infant-like sounds more appealing.

"We're trying to engage with the infant to show them something about speech production," said co-author Linda Polka, PhD, of McGill University.

Why are some people discouraging baby talk?

This new research sheds light on how babies can slowly pick up speech, though it begs the question, why than are some under the impression that using baby talk is potentially a hindrance to language development in babies? Well, some research suggests that mothers who speak in baby-talk may speak less clearly to infants than they do to adults.

Research suggesting that baby talk is less clear than normal speech

A study in RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Tokyo recorded 22 Japanese mothers talking to their 18- to 24-month-old children and an experimenter. Next, a team of experts at the Laboratory for Language Development spent five years annotating the 14 hours of speech, like the beginnings and ends of consonants, vowels, and phrases.

Next, the researchers applied a technique they had developed to measure the acoustic similarity between any two syllables, like “pa” and “ba” or “po” and “bo.” The team examined the 118 most frequent syllable contrasts in both the adult and child-directed speech patterns. The results showed that mothers spoke slightly less clearly when talking to their children than when talking to the experimenter.

Something to consider…

However, one thing to note about this study is that the researchers themselves say caution that these findings do not provide any evidence regarding whether speaking clearly to your child boosts language acquisition.

Our take on the matter:

From my experience working in the nursery for over a year, it is best to use your instincts, as every baby is unique, and talking in a sing-song voice helps babies stay engaged and happy to talk to you. There is no denying that when you use baby talk, babies trust you more as they feel more comfortable around you as you show the baby your goofy, playful side and warm side, which all helps to bring you closer to your baby.

Here are some tips that help your baby get the most out of your playful interaction

1. Talk in a sing-song voice

2. Sing to your baby

3. Chat about what you are doing

4. Repeat sounds your baby makes back to them

5. Name and point things you can both see

If this article helps you, please be sure to subscribe for more practical, evidence-based advice to help you along your parenthood journey.


Speaking 'baby-talk' to infants isn’t just cute: It could help them learn to make words

OBSERVATION- ‘Baby Talk’ Is Less Clear Than Normal Speech

Help your baby learn to talk

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