Sie sind auf Seite 1von 12

Motherese - What It Is, How To Do It, & Why

You And Baby Need It

Author: Kathy Stolle

5 Best Reasons to Talk Motherese to Your


Baby and Why
Lets assume you are going back to work after
maternity leave. Going back is tough. Youve spent
the past weeks and months, if youre lucky, getting
to know and adore this new little scrap of humanity
that has changed your lives forever. So were
guessing you feel the tiniest bit guilty.
Weve been there, too, and are happy to say that a
simple thing that most of us do instinctively with
our babies can make all the difference in the bond
you and your baby share. Its part of your DNA and
something that you as parents can consciously
cultivate and even practice strategically.
The more you do, the more your babys adjustment to the new situation can be
eased and you can rest assured that you are doing everything you can to
strengthen the bond between you and your child.
Its called Motherese (a.k.a. plain old Baby Talk). And in case you might think this
could lead to the dumbing down of your child, think again!
What is Motherese?
Better yet, lets call it Parentese because as you might expect, Motherese isnt just
limited to the mother. It includes Dad, grand parents, and anyone caregiving or
interacting with your child up to around two years of age.

5 Best Reasons to Talk Motherese to Your Baby and Why


Page 1

5 Best Reasons to Talk Motherese to Your


Baby and Why
In research, its referred to as Infant-Directed Speech or IDS[1] and its the
interactive give and take between mother and child common to mothers and
babies around the world. Its the initial goo-goo, ga-ga that starts when your
babys born right on through to Itsy Bitsy Spider when theyre toddlers.
This spontaneous mother-baby communication is critical to the childs emotional,
social and language development. And its not only verbal it involves hand
gestures, facial expressions, engaging babys eyes/attention and the pitch of your
voice.

5 Best Reasons to Talk Motherese to Your Baby and Why


Page 2

5 Best Reasons to Talk Motherese to Your


Baby and Why
Why Parentese?
You catch yourself doing everything you can from sing-song babbling like a fool
to making goofy faces in an effort to make baby smile, giggle and coo. You are
communicating because both of you are engaged. Think about it - youre looking
for a response and the way your child responds leads you to match your response
to your childs and so it progresses in an interactive loop step by step.
The rst three months its all about comforting and then from 3-6 months its
about expressing affection and approval. The effectiveness of Parentese peaks
around 6 months when it becomes more directive look at Daddy, isnt Daddy
cuuuute? up to about 2 years of age.
For parents who feel silly talking baby talk, you dont have to do it all the time. As
baby gets older, youll probably progress to a more adult way of speaking once
you have babys attention and his or her learning and understanding progresses.
The point is you are learning from each other and you both have to be
comfortable with your interaction.
5 Good Reasons to Baby Talk to Your Child
Its as important to your childs development as diapers and mothers milk.
1. Infants actually prefer Parentese. You can mix adult speech and baby talk,
but studies show that if you start speaking with baby talk to engage
attention, they will then pay attention to adult speech as part of the
conversation, but rarely the other way around.

5 Best Reasons to Talk Motherese to Your Baby and Why


Page 3

5 Best Reasons to Talk Motherese to Your


Baby and Why
2. It encourages babys attention as you engage eye contact and prompts
babies to coo, smile, wiggle and make noises. They are talking back to you
and clearly show whether they accept or reject the way you are
communicating with them.
3. It helps in language acquisition as your baby or toddler responds and learns
to process the differences in speech, such as how a sentence or phrase is
formed and how words are formed. They are able to recall words more
effectively[2] than babies who only hear adult directed speech.
4. It encourages social interaction with others who practice Motherese with
your child since a baby will respond to it more readily than to adult-directed
speech.
5. You are practicing positive, loving touch. Whether stroking, patting or just
holding your child on your lap as you talk, you are physically connected to
your baby and your mutual exchange of energy has a positive effect on both
of you.
For Example
Lets take Pat-a-Cake. Think about everything you do in addition to saying the
rhyme itself. Youre holding babys hands, making the patting movements,
drawing the b and in our case even throwing it in the air for baby and me!
Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man.
Bake me a cake as fast as you can;
Pat it and shape it and mark it with "B",
And bake it in the oven for baby and me

5 Best Reasons to Talk Motherese to Your Baby and Why


Page 4

5 Best Reasons to Talk Motherese to Your


Baby and Why
100 to one odds are that when you say it to your baby, you dont do it in the same
tone of voice that you would to another adult. You pitch your voice higher,
emphasize each consonant and include pauses between them. Think of the
repetition of vowels a and e and the consonants, especially b.
Research has found that that Motherese or Infant-directed Speech has the
following characteristics:
A large number of questions
Repetitive words and phrases
Frequent use of proper names
Infusing communication with emotion
Spontaneous
Drawn out vowels
And as far as rhythm and rhyming is concerned, the tempo is slower, the voice is
pitched higher and rhyming tends to be more repetitive according to what the
mother wants to convey.
Interestingly, these same speech characteristics exist across various languages,
although with expected linguistic and cultural variations for both mothers and
fathers.
Positive Steps
So, bring on as much Motherese/Parentese during the time you ARE together as
you can one on one and you will help further your childs cognitive, emotional
and social development. That goes for Dad, too!
Whether changing diapers or cooking dinner, keep baby close bythose
moments of connection are precious and meaningful for you both.

5 Best Reasons to Talk Motherese to Your Baby and Why


Page 5

Is Baby Getting Enough Motherese?


It also means putting down your devices and paying attention to this new human.
Its the quantity of undivided attention, as well as the quality, that can make such
a difference.
And theres plenty of evidence to back that up!
Statistically, in the US and Canada, around
two/thirds of moms from two-parent families
work outside the home. And our guess is that
you probably t into this category (well talk
about single-working mothers another time)!
There are so many variables.if you breast
feedhave a stay-at-home dad, nanny or day
carepart or full timeshift or 9 to 5you get
the point. However, there is one factor
common to most, if not all, working mothers the concern that Baby is receiving
the best possible care and attention when moms away at work.
It doesnt matter who cares for your precious little package, whether its a
grandparent, aunt, dad, nanny or group care, one of the most important things is
that during waking hours, Baby is getting a healthy amount of undivided attention
and a good dose of Motherese.
What is that, you ask? Also called Parentese or Infant Directed Speech, its
wubbly, cuddly, high pitched Baby Talk common to moms, dads and caregivers
around the world when speaking to an infant or toddler.

Is Baby Getting Enough Motherese?


Page 6

Is Baby Getting Enough Motherese?


Motherese Basics
Research[1] has found that that Motherese or Infant-Directed Speech has the
following characteristics:
A large number of questions
Repetitive words and phrases
Frequent use of proper names
Infusing communication with emotion
Spontaneous
Drawn out vowels and slower tempo
It's a building block for language acquisition and infant socialization especially
in Babys early stages. It can capture Babys complete attention when adult
speech cant and is an interactive exchange between infant and older person.
And, yes, even small children revert to Motherese quite naturally when they
encounter a baby or have a baby at home.
This doesnt mean that Baby talk is the only type of speech appropriate for your
child. As your infant progresses, generally around 6 to 9 months, youll nd that
you are probably alternating more and more between adult talk referred to as
Adult Directed Speech and Motherese.
Many parents dont feel comfortable using Baby Talk or believe that it leads to
the dumbing down of their child. There certainly are examples of children who get
along just ne without it, but by and large, the extensive systematic review of
studies cited below has shown that it is an important part of a childs
development.

Is Baby Getting Enough Motherese?


Page 7

Is Baby Getting Enough Motherese?


Quality Day Care
Obviously, ensuring Babys daily dose of Motherese is much easier when your
child can remain at home with a good nanny or is in a high-quality day care
situation. But this isnt always the case, is it? The really good day care centers fill
up fast and often have long waiting lists.
If your child is in day care, especially
when younger than a year, its important
to know that Baby is getting muchneeded attention, including Motherese.
When you interview a prospective day care, observe how caregivers interact with
other infants. If its impersonal or strictly Adult Directed Speech, you might want
to look elsewhere. If you dont have the opportunity to observe day care
caregivers in action, be sure to inquire whether and how often it is practiced.
There are other aspects of group day care that youll want to consider in addition
to the caregivers themselves: the quality of the physical environment, whether
the activities are age appropriate and how often staff turns over, to name a few.
[2] It could mean some extra legwork on your part, but in the end, itll be worth it.
And dont wait until the last minute to start looking!

Is Baby Getting Enough Motherese?


Page 8

Is Baby Getting Enough Motherese?


Or a Nanny?
Finding a good nanny isnt always easy either. If youre lucky, there are
grandparents, dad or a relative close at hand who can fill the job.
And even if you have a nanny or another caregiver, make sure they all have some
"training". Show them what books and songs your baby likes, let them shadow
you for a morning while you feed, diaper and care for your baby. Let them know
that you expect them to use plenty of Motherese interacting with your child.
After all, they are going to be with your child possibly longer than you any given
day.
And what do you do when Baby seems to bond more with the nanny or caregiver
than with you as a result? All that means is that Baby is getting the quality care he
or she needs. If Baby seems to be happier to see Nanny arrive than upset to see
you go, push that little jealous devil sitting on your shoulder off his perch and be
thankful!

And how about You?


You nally arrive home tired from a hectic day at work and your nanny informs
you that Baby has had a tummy ache all day and really needs you to hold and
comfort her or him. All you can think of is getting dinner and putting your feet up,
but you just nished this article on Motherese and feel terrible for even
entertaining such thoughts. What to do?

Is Baby Getting Enough Motherese?


Page 9

Is Baby Getting Enough Motherese?


Hold Baby for a while until the fussing stops and then keep Baby nearby where
you can sing, babble and make eye contact as you go about making dinner and
cleaning up. And wait until Babys in bed to answer that text that just pinged or
check your emails.
Be creative and nd as many activities as you can to intensify the bond you share
with your child even when you are dog tired and just want to curl up in the
corner with a good book. Read a story with your baby or toddler curled up next to
you stopping from time to time to engage them. Sing silly songs at the top of
your lungs in the car on the way to the store. Get down on the oor at their level
and play funny games.
Or just hold and cuddle your wee one as much and as often as you can. Its the
quality of time you spend interacting joyfully and playfully with your child that
counts.
And a good dose of Motherese will ultimately benefit the both of you.
___________________________________________________________
[1] Motherese in Interaction: At the Cross-Road of Emotion and Cognition? (A
Systematic Review)
[2] Singh, L., Nestor, S., Parikh, C. and Yull, A. (2009), In uences of InfantDirected Speech on Early Word Recognition. Infancy, 14: 654666.
doi: 10.1080/15250000903263973
[3] https://www.zerotothree.org/resources
Catherine Saint-Georges,1,2Mohamed Chetouani,2Raquel Cassel,1,3Fabio
Apicella,4Ammar Mahdhaoui,2Filippo Muratori,4Marie-Christine Laznik,5 and
David Cohen1,2,*

Is Baby Getting Enough Motherese?


Page 10

Is Baby Getting Enough Motherese?

If you would like to read more about relevant parenting topics


from Kathy Stolle, you can find her work on the Baja Baby Blog.
Just click the button beneath for more reading!
Read More

Is Baby Getting Enough Motherese?


Page 11