Baby Talk, Or Not?

Baby Talk, Or Not? Picture

If you want to hear what you sound like, listen to your little one. I've been reminded of this lately, as my not-so-little one has been talking baby talk to me. It's driving me crazy. We are long past the days of "milky," "choo-choo," and "night-night." We are to the phase of milk, trains and nighttime and those are the words that I would like to hear come out of her mouth.

Where DID she get those baby talk words?

Gulp. It's all me and my motherese, otherwise known as parentese or child-directed speech. It's all about how I talk to this little one, my tone of voice, speech patterns, and vocabulary. My little one may be growing, but sometimes I find it too easy (and more fun) to resort to the days of talking to her like she is still cradled in my arms.

If you are holding an infant in your arms (first off, good job being a multi-tasking mama!), you may be wondering what is wrong with baby talk, or parentese. The truth? Nothing! In fact, it is the best way to get a response from your infant.

Researchers have concluded that infants actually prefer to listen to this type of speech.  Researchers also believe that baby talk is an important part of the emotional bonding process between infants and adults and helps babies acquire speech. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Wisconsin found that using “baby talk” may actually help babies learn words faster.  

And, want to get your little one's attention? It's been proven that infants pay more attention when parents use parentese, which tends to be slower and have a more repetitive tone than regular speech patterns.  Parentese, motherese, and child-directed speech don't just happen with the English language, they have global appeal. Parents, no matter where they are in the world, resort to baby talk.

As for this mama of a preschooler, it may be time to re-think some of the words I am using and the ways I am talking to my little one. What do you think?

Do you talk baby talk to your little one?

Do you think it helps or hinders their language development?

For me, the pros and cons of baby talk being appropriate (or not) are all about age and stage.

In this household; it's time for us all to grow up a little.


What do you think?

Baby Talk, Or Not?

Jeannie Fleming-Gifford is a mama to one little lady, freelance writer, and the director of education for a non-profit community school of the arts. Graduating with a B.A. in Music and a M.A. in Child Development, Jeannie began her career in quality child development programs as a teacher, then moved into creative administrative roles with science centers, symphony orchestras and arts programs. Owner of 170+ year old house, Jeannie loves living in small town America where walks to the park and ... More

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  1. Cydni says:

    There is a wide variety of languages that use child-directed speech or baby talk. Cultures such as the Kaluli of New Guinea discourage all forms of baby talk. The Kaluli, despite research showing various benefits of communicating with your baby, don’t engage in conversation with their babies. All caregivers should practice child-directed speech because it increases a young child’s social skills, increases language comprehension, and facilitates communication.
    Communication is important when it comes to children of all ages. Beneficial baby talk is not repeating nonsense words or mimicking your child. Beneficial baby talk is a melodic, emotionally-charged, and exaggerated tone. Infants begin life with perceptual abilities that allows them to learn any language (Bosseler et. al). Additionally, there is extensive research that shows the features of baby talk effectively captures a baby’s attention. Therefore, by using baby talk with your child, you are teaching your child how to focus and communicate.
    Once the communication is open, you can start teaching your child social skills and language comprehension using baby talk. Studies show the emotionally-charged tone used with baby talk is something babies absorb. They learn to speak by imitating sound, so the more you talk to your baby, the more they will see and practice language skills. There is no harm in using baby talk, as it will not prevent or delay your infant from learning adult speech later (Benaroch). In fact, baby talk has even proven to help adults learn foreign languages.

    Benaroch, Roy. “Baby Talk: Communicating with Your Baby”. WebMD, Accessed 12 July 2017.

    Bosseler, A.N., Teinonen, T., Tervaniemi, M., & Huotilainen, M. “Infant Directed Speech Enhances Statistical Learning in Newborn Infants: An ERP Study”. PloS ONE, vol. 11, no. 9,2016. Accessed 18 July 2017.

  2. Cherie says:

    We specifically requested when our first daughter was born that no one talk “baby talk” to her. Now she is 2 1/2 years old and has a better understanding of grammar than some children twice her age. 99 out of 100 times she will use nouns correctly (“Help me zip my coat?” or “This is Ella’s sippy.” instead of “Her’s gone to the bathroom”)

  3. Sorry, I’ll disagree, baby talk isnt universal… there are scientific arguments:

    "The extent to which baby talk helps children in acquiring language is difficult to
    assess, but in cultures where baby talk is absent (as it is in Samoa, parts of Papua New
    Guinea, and among the Kipsigis of Kenya, for example) children acquire their native language
    at the same rate as children exposed to baby talk. So baby talk is not essential to
    successful language acquisition." (Language its structure and use, 2012)

  4. Jewels says:

    I baby talk to my grandson all of the time, I even did it with my kids when they were babies with no problems…

  5. I have heared it stunts there growth so I don’t do it.I have a 3 month old that I talk slowly and in a very happy tone when I talk to her. So she can learn and understand. And the happy tone so she knows she is loved. I keep negative tones away from her. However I do go through the abc’s sounds and she mocks me on some letters she is still learning the rest.

  6. malamonis says:

    sometimes I speak baby talk to my Little One, he seems to enjoy i t very much!:)

  7. i try not to but sometimes I do it without knowing

  8. ChrisS says:

    I never baby talk my son. I speak to him in a way how I talk to my 3 year old some, just normal. Talking to my baby is basically teaching him word and understanding what does words mean. Example, eyes. I point to him what eyes are. I don’t baby talk.

  9. kekah1689 says:

    My son receives baby talk from his grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and the rest of them, so his father and I both talk to him normally. If he did not spend so much time surrounded by his extended family we might talk baby talk to him, but since everyone else does it, we decided it would be best if we did not. We do however talk softly to him, or in a different pitched voice, but no baby talk.

  10. Theresa says:

    I don’t baby talk with my son. I use parentese and I imitate his sounds. It encourages him to keep up what he’s doing and learn new sounds without adding unnecessary "goo goo," "ga ga," and other fake words like "dipey." He’s 8 months now and is coming up with new sounds every day. 🙂

  11. mamadee2x says:

    Babies learn through imitation. It is very important to engage and use language, song, poem, rhymes.

  12. i can’t wait until my baby girl is born and starts to baby talk to me omg i would take alot of videos of her =D

  13. Ozzie says:

    We never used baby talk with our daughter. We spoke normally with her from the day my wife & her came home from the hospital and we read from books to her very early on. Before she was a year old she had a vocabulary of dozens of words and was speaking in complete sentences before she was two. I remember the day when she was in Kindergarden when she read the other kids report cards to them, including the teacher’s comments. The teacher told us about it. I think most every child could do this if the parents gave it a try.

  14. mamaduke says:

    We don’t baby talk to our little one, as we wanted him to learn the words as we say them. We also correct my husband’s parents, who insisted on baby talking to him at first. Now they understand our vision for our tiny human.

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