The Washington Post
Concern that making ‘nonsense sounds’ will stall baby’s language development
Dear Amy: I’m a new parent of a 5month-old baby.
My partner and I love our baby, but we have different approaches and I’m concerned that my partner’s parenting approach won’t be good for our baby long term.
We’re both introverts, so making “conversation” to promote language development doesn’t come easily to either of us, but I try as much as possible to talk with baby, narrate what I’m doing, sing, etc.
My partner mostly makes nonsense sounds or says “hi.”
Soon I’ll be going back to work and my partner will be watching the baby a few days a week. I’m worried the baby will be delayed because of not enough stimulation.
I can’t figure out how to bring this up without it just sounding like criticism. Am I overreacting and/or overthinking this?
— Concerned Co-parent
Concerned: You are right to understand how important it is to connect verbally with babies. Narrating your activities will acquaint your child with human speech and language. It’s also a good way to get through days that can be long and tiring.
But your partner is also narrating the day to your baby — just using different language patterns.
“Nonsense sounds” mimic the music of language, and your baby will hear these and start to imitate them. When you and your partner hold your baby close, make eye contact, and mirror or imitate your baby’s sounds, your child may laugh — this is an example of humor emerging.
My overall point is that it’s all good. Verbal or babble: The connection is the thing.
One way to help your partner with parenting during the time you’re at work would be to encourage them to join groups of other parents and children. This might be challenging for an introvert, but being around others will expose both parent and baby to stimulating experiences and lots of opportunities for learning.
I highly recommend the work of T. Berry Brazelton, whose advice has influenced generations of thoughtful parents. Check him out on Youtube, and read his book: “Touchpoints-birth to Three,” written with co-author Joshua Sparrow.
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