Baby Talk

Most parents have read enough baby books to know talking to their baby while in the womb is crucial. This communication, the sound of your voice, will be a future comfort for your infant (even though your voice will sound distorted.) But what about once the baby is born?  What do you talk about?  It’s easy to see the discomfort while parents attempt to talk to their infant; by trying on different tonal patterns, speaking in baby-talk and searching for conversation topics which might interest their baby. The discomfort largely has to do with the fact that infants are terrible conversationalists, the other end is that we just don’t know what or how to talk to our infants.

I think there are two major things parents/nannies are unsure of when talking to their infant.  The first order of business is how to talk to them; do you talk in your normal voice, or do you raise the pitch? Do you speak in proper sentences with proper pronunciation, or speak in “baby talk”? Second, what do you talk about? Do you talk in long personal monologues or pointed conversations involving your infant, or both?

How to Talk:

Tip: Think about how you want to talk to your baby.

While it can be tempting to talk to your infant in a higher pitch and baby-talk nonsensical “sentences”, I try to avoid this form of communication.  We, as parents and nannies, are their model for verbal communication. Don’t we want to teach them the proper way to speak, form sentences and communicate at large?

Tip: Say words correctly.

I fight the urge to talk like this, “Who’s a tubby-wubby tummy flubber?” because I think pronouncing words correctly is important for our future talkers. I make sure to annunciate, use short and concise language and I even raise my pitch on occasion. I say, “I love you.” Instead of, “I wub you.”

Tip: Break your language down.

Remember to break your language down, so that words will be more accessible to your child when they are able to talk. Use words they will be able to say, don’t say she’s “flabbergasted” say she’s “shocked”. If you are a linguist remember that “big words” will be more difficult for your baby to say, so save your vocabulary for adults.

Be concise with your sentences, and avoid complicated grammar.  Don’t say, “Although when the temperature is appropriate this would be a lovely toy to utilize, today a storm is forecasted, so let’s just play with the ball.” Instead say, “It might rain, so we will stay inside and play with the ball.”

Tip: Be consistent.

In order for your child to understand, and eventually use words, they need to understand the words: both how to say them and how to use them. Be consistent with your words, decide what word you will use to describe something and continue to use that word, repetition is the best way for your baby learn language.  If you decide to refer to your baby’s stomach as “belly” then use that word every time. And use repetition, “This is your belly, can you touch your belly?  Can you show me your belly?”

What to talk about:

Tip: Involve your infant in the conversation.

A lot of your communication with your infant will be talking about whatever comes to mind.  A running monologue of your daily activities together is great, keep doing it, but also involve her in the conversation.  Ask your baby questions, even though she can’t respond, this shows her that you’re interested. “How was your nap? Do you want to eat? Do you like this book?”  Your perceived patience and willingness to involve her will give space for her to communicate when she can verbally or physically do so.

Tip: Take time to describe and explain.

I believe asking questions, and taking the time to describe and explain things in detail will promote verbal communication, and makes for “good-listeners”.  Babies learn communication skills through us, they learn listening, and verbal techniques by watching and hearing us listen and talk.

They will replicate our actions, so pay attention to their moods, and ask them questions about how they are feeling, even if they can’t verbally respond. Ask your infant/toddler why she is upset, happy, frustrated, etc., then repeat what she either shows you or tells you. “You’re upset because you can’t touch the stove?  I understand, but the stove is a thing for big people…” Acknowledging how they feel and giving them language to describe their feelings shows them you care, and will be patient with them, characteristics I’m sure we all want our children to have.

Tip: Explain EVERYTHING.

Explain everything, how things feel, the purpose of objects, safety, etc. It’s easy as adults to take for granted all of the things we know without ever consciously thinking about it.  Remember that your infant, baby, toddler does not know how to describe things, what things are and what they are used for (windows, fans, stoves, etc.,) so explain everything. Instead of ignoring your child’s screams explain why you are lathering her in sunscreen for the 5th time, “I know you don’t like this but sunscreen is important, it protects our skin.” It will be soothing for your baby because you’re acknowledging their frustration, but you’re also filling them in on what’s happening.

Tip: Think about what can be a learning opportunity for both your child and you.

If your infant pulls your hair, bites your nipple, or does something that is too rough, take this opportunity to explain how to be gentle.  This is not a moment to reprimand your infant, because she does not know “right” from “wrong” but begin to teach her these things when they happen. Explain being gentle both with words and show her with your touch what “gentle” means; lightly touch her arm, or the place on her body where she was rough with you and say the word “gentle” or “soft”.

This is also an important learning opportunity for the parent/nanny, because you will need to learn how to explain and show your child acceptable vs. unacceptable behaviors, so start early.  Beginning conversations of safety and behaviors early will prepare you for when you will have to do it daily, when your baby becomes a toddler.

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Baby Proofing: Is it Fool Proof?

Most families I’ve worked for have hired professional baby proofers.  Parent’s choose the baby proofer option rather than do it themselves, because, like all families they fear something in their home will do irreparable damage to their child.  Safety aside, professional baby-proofers offer a convenient service to those with money and little time at home, why do something someone—a professional can do for you?

What I’m concerned with is what happens after the baby-proofers leave? Do all of the door, cabinet, toilet, window and faucet locks help protect your child? While some of these preventative measures could help protect your child from scalding water, jammed fingers, etc., this form of baby-proofing is restricted to the house and to the things where child-locks can be installed. What about everything else?  What about the parents and adults who despite (or because) of the baby-proofing still don’t know what could be hazardous for their child both in and out of the home?

Tip: Do the baby proofing yourself so you can assess what could be dangerous. This will make you a more aware parent and nanny when it comes to safety in and out of the home.

Most families I’ve worked for have gotten sloppy after baby-proofers come either by leaving potentially dangerous things at eye level or by neglecting to use the safety materials the professionals installed.  Professional baby-proofers do provide a convenient service, but they don’t teach or inform the parents why these things need locks or what parents should look out for around the house.  The baby-proofers don’t (rightfully so) account for all of the things that lay around any given home, because that’s the parent/caregiver’s job.

Things families leave at eye/reachable level after the baby-proofers come:  Wine corks, guitar picks, pens (potential choking risk), hot coffee/tea (burning risk), computer cords (both a tripping and strangulation risk), and breakables (cutting risk).

I believe professional baby proofing should be avoided because it stops the parent/nanny from thinking about what is safe and what isn’t. A lot of people who have never or rarely been around babies don’t know what, daily, household things could be dangerous.  Without driving yourself crazy with paranoia think about what she could get into, is that dangerous? Is that too small, could she choke on it?

Tip: First time parents should especially take the time to think about what is ok and what is not: learn, decide and trust your instincts.

The parent’s who are first timers, not only with their baby but, with babies in general, should not feel any inadequacy or embarrassment for not knowing these things. You learn with experience, by watching your child and the environment she’s in. Having a baby-proofer come install things removes you from the process of thinking about safety, it puts safety issues aside and allows for parents/nannies to think, “well, that’s taken care of.”

Tip: Think and assess what’s in your cabinets- you might not need to block everything off.

I recommend doing the baby proofing yourself so that you can assess what is dangerous and what is not, where to put cabinet stoppers and where you might not need them.  The process of baby-proofing, of looking at the objects in your house that are at eye/reachable level will make you safer in the home and outside the home.

YourBabyNanny Baby proofing guide:

General: Put all potentially hazardous things up 3.5 feet or lock in cabinet/closet.

What’s hazardous?

  • Cleaning supplies.
  • Small objects: I took a continued CPR class a while back and the teacher suggested using a toilet paper roll (the cardboard part) as a frame of reference- so anything smaller than that should be out of reach. (Ex. pens, guitar picks, wine corks.)
  • Breakables.
  • Sharp objects.
  • Heavy things that are not secured.
  • Cords.
  • Laptops.
  • Remotes/things with batteries.

Tip: Let your kids explore safe cabinets.

Drawer/cabinet locks and stoppers: I think drawer/cabinet locks are useful if you have breakables or potentially dangerous things in them, if not don’t use them. Look in cabinets, drawers and closets, than decide if there is anything dangerous.  If everything looks fine than it’s ok to leave it unlocked. Let your kids explore these safe places with you, show them that not all things are blocked off, just certain, unsafe places.

What to lock:

Tip: Remember to explain to your children why these things are protected or off limits so they learn to be carful when outside of the house.

Kitchen:

  • Oven door guard: YES.
  • Stove burner guard: YES.
  • Cabinets: You decide-safe cabinets let your baby/toddler explore the mixing bowls while you cook.
  • Fridge: No/you decide: It takes a good amount of strength to open a fridge. But keep glass bottles on the higher shelf just in case.

Bathroom:

  • Toilet seat lock: No, but keep the lid down or door closed when you aren’t in there!
  • Bath Faucet lock: No, unless you have scalding hot water.
  • Shower rod safety: Make sure to have a shower rod that is drilled into the wall.
  • Razors: keep in a cabinet or out of reach meaning at least 3.5 feet up.
  • Cabinet locks/stoppers: You decide.

All Rooms:

  • Outlets: Make sure NOT to get removable outlet blockers these are a choking hazard.  Instead replace the face of the outlet with one that covers the outlets with a swivel piece.  Look at KIDCO  outlet cover.
  • Table Corners: I do recommend getting some to cover sharp corners.
  • Doors: I don’t think door “finger pinch guards” are necessary. I think they actually deter door safety because the parent/nanny forgets to explain door safety to their children when the door is protected.  Start showing door/finger safety in the house, but keep an eye out!!
  • Windows: I think window guards are good if the window is low to the floor or if you are in a high-rise.