When I was on maternity leave with my second-born son, it was not a quiet household.
This has nothing do with my son. On the contrary, he was peaceful, content and napped soundly. (The nights, however, a whole different story. I’m still tired.)
But the daytime ruckus in the home came from me. Perhaps I was bored or restless or longing for adult companionship in an otherwise hazy postpartum, but I spoke constantly to my baby. Truly, I was chatting with him all the time.
When I was cooking lunch or dinner, I would prop him sweetly in his swing so he could watch me cook, and I would share with him the recipe. “Now, I am going to add a half teaspoon salt.” As I would clean the kitchen with his little body strapped to mine, I would explain to him what I was cleaning and the importance of keeping a tidy home. When it was time to feed him or change his diaper, I would say to him as if to ask for permission, “It’s time for you to eat! Are you to ready to eat? Are you feeling hungry? Should we change your diaper?” Upon waking from a nap, I would ask him how he slept or what he needed. I still so profoundly remember those moments in our special time, stretched out together on a blanket in the middle of the living room floor, talking softly near his face while the world whizzed around outside.
Sure, communicating with an infant might just be a way to maintain our sanity as a sleepy parent. But it seems we don’t even realize how much we actually verbalize with infants, and there is absolute benefit here to your child. Even as a newborn, they know and cherish your voice, they take in and retain your words and they are responsive to them, too. So engage intentionally with them, and watch how well they will engage with you.
Speak respectfully to your child. Use big words and full sentences, as if you were talking to a friend.
Tell them what you are doing or how you are feeling, and include them in your own train of thought. “I’m feeling so tired today, because you and I were up a lot last night. Are you feeling tired, too? How else are you feeling? You going to keep up with these late-night parties?” (Half kidding about that last part.) When you speak to a baby, teach them how conversation works by pausing after a question, giving them room to answer you, and maybe even ask a question more than once, being intentional with the inflection in your voice.
And speak respectfully to your child. Use big words and full sentences, as if you were talking to a friend, but explicitly define everything you talk about. I will spend my entire lunch explaining to my son why food is important, but I also will take time to define things, too — “I’m now going to put the casserole in the oven. An oven belongs in the kitchen and cooks food so it is warm and healthy to eat.” “This is a refrigerator. It keeps food cold and fresh.” Define everything around them to help them learn.
This engagement with your infant is healthy for the both of you, and just imagine the rich conversation the two of you will have as he grows!
About the Author
Angela Tewalt is a writer and mother to two boys. She shares parenting stories, learning opportunities and Montessori inspiration for Guidepost Parent.
Recommended for you: