Communicating with your baby

Your baby might not talk for a while yet but you can still work on basic communication skills with him.

0-6 months

From the first moment your baby starts to suckle, he’s already beginning to develop the muscles he needs to help him form words. Although he may not appear to respond, he’s taking in a lot more than just his feed. Within a very short space of time, he’ll be able to recognise your voice.

What you can do:

* Don’t be self-conscious. Tell him what you’re doing: changing his nappy, getting his bath ready.
* Let him look at your face when you’re talking. He learns by imitation and by matching the sounds you’re making to the shape of your mouth.

6-12 months:

By now your baby will be trying out sounds for himself. Speaking uses a lot of muscles and is a sensual act. He enjoys the feel of his tongue on the ridge of his teeth and the bubbly sound (and the bubbles) his lips make when he blows through them. Ma-ma and da-da are usually his first definite ‘words’, and are similar in all languages.

What you can do:

* Copy his sounds and let him see that it’s a fun thing to do.
* He’ll quickly relate ‘ma-ma’ and ‘da-da’ to you and your partner, and is laying the foundations of a vocabulary. Reward him with big smiles and tell him how clever he is.
* Other sounds may not make much sense, but encourage him to experiment and let him see how pleased you are with his attempts.
* When visiting friends, encourage him to associate ‘hello’ when greeting people so that he absorbs the ideas of sociability. ‘Goodbye’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ also have their place here, and if he sees you chatting easily he’ll soon want to try things out for himself.