Motherese and why it’s so important.

Lisa & Alistair

Babies start cooing very early on in response to parent’s motherese (infant-directed speech) and by the time they are about six or seven months they start to babble.

What is Motherese

This “silly” language is not just restricted to mums, you’ll find any adult interacting with a baby (or an animal!) will adopt the same intonation, babbles and playful style.

When you talk using motherese you are animated and pitch it higher than normal conversation (babies love high pitch and melodious sound and they demonstrate this with their musical preferences). Babies love motherese and react positively to it.

Research shows that babies love to listen to motherese rather than mums talking to other adults. Nothing to do with the choice of words – it’s all in the delivery. It’s a language of comfort and research shows that even adults feel comforted by it.

How: pitch rises by an octave or more, it has a melodic intonation almost song like, with slow and elongated vowels. This helps babies to start sorting out the language puzzle. When talking in infant-directed speech you automatically start using short simple sentences which you repeat often.

Research shows that infant-directed speech provides babies with well-formed, elongated consonants and vowels giving clear examples of speech. Parents pronounce words properly and clearly when they talk to their babies. This is the perfect way to talk to your babies to really encourage their early language development.

Why Do Babies Babble?

During the cooing and babbling stage, scientists believe that babies are making mouth-to-sound maps so that they know exactly where their lips, tongues, mouths and jaws are during the production of sound (mouth mapping).  Whilst they are cooing and babbling babies often have their fingers and hands in their mouths too so that it can be a tactile experience.  Language development is a sensory experience using auditory, visual and tactile stimulation to understand the language puzzle.

Babies make six babbling sounds b, d, m, g, k, p with an “ah” from whichever language they are talked to in until 12 months. Your baby will start to make a string of consonant/vowel combinations: dadadada, adadad, babababa (so no wonder that many baby’s first word is dada or daddy; coincidence or  design?!)

At Baby College we teach these basic sounds that baby will naturally speak and during the classes parents work closely with their  baby with plenty of eye contact, intonation and encouragement. Motherese is encouraged, as is repetition, smiles and lively and interesting conversation.  Not forgetting nursery rhymes which replicate the use of motherese: simple, melodic, high pitched repetitive lyrics which really encourage the development of those early language skills.



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