How to Respond When Baby Babbles

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ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Updated
Mar 2017
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Photo: Saptak Anguly

Since you’re probably doing it anyway, it’s a relief to know that having full conversations with your babbling baby is now scientifically encouraged.

According to a new  study by the University of Iowa and Indiana University, they way parents respond to baby influences how the child will communicate and vocalize. By listening and responding to whatever you think your baby is saying, you’re letting baby know she can communicate, leading her to make more complex sounds more quickly.

“It’s not that we found responsiveness matters,” says Julie Gros-Louis, co-author of the study. “It’s how a mother responds that matters.” When mothers responded as if they knew what baby was actually saying, those garbled noises became more directed and more like words a lot sooner. This means more consonant-vowel vocalizations. To gauge this, researchers observed 8-month-olds and their mothers for 30 minutes twice a month over the course of six months.

“The infants were using vocalizations in a communicative way, in a sense, because they learned they are communicative,” Gros-Louis says. By 15 months, these infants were using more words and gestures than those with mothers who were less attentive to the babbling.

 What do you and baby talk about?

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