Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Baby Communication Development: 0-6 Months Old

So you've got a new baby, and you want to know what to expect, eh?

The good news is that it's my job to tell you just that. The bad news, however, is that you're really not going to be able to expect much at all for the first four weeks or so. During those first long weeks of parenting, you'll give yourself over to that brand new bundle of joy, only to find that you really won't get much back. At all. As the weeks go on, you may even begin to wonder why you ever decided to sign up for this whole parenthood thing.

And then. Just as you're about to throw in the towel, it'll happen. At about four weeks of age, your baby will bestow upon you her first real social smile. And that beautiful milestone will mark the beginning of a two-way dance of communication that will unfold across the days, months, and years to come.

Although this smile may seem to appear quite suddenly, you've actually been laying the groundwork for it since the day you first held your baby in your arms. Newborn babies are primed for social interaction; studies have shown that they prefer the human voice and the human face almost immediately after birth. Your baby has been studying you since the day she was born. What's more, you and your baby have already established an important rule that is crucial to your child's development: when your baby cries, you respond. Each time this happens, a newborn learns that she has control over her environment and that when she "talks," her parents listen. As a result, in just four short weeks, your baby will learn that you are the source of all things good. And she'll smile.

Right about the time your baby starts smiling, you'll also notice that she starts to get excited when she sees you. Even though babies can't yet verbally tell us that they are excited about things, they can still show us: when they see favorite objects or people, their whole body will tell the tale. Then, around three months, you'll notice your baby beginning to "coo" softly with her little voice. She'll make quiet vowel like sounds and, if you respond by talking back to her, she's likely to start up a little "conversation" with you that will win you over with sweetness. Many babies are especially prone to doing this after bath and bottle, when they are at their most relaxed.

Then, between four and six months, things really start to get fun. If you've been playing little games like "peek-a-boo" and "5 little piggies," your baby will start to show you that she knows what's coming. When you pause in the middle of these games, her body may get really still as she shows you that she knows something fun is about to happen...or she might be unable to contain her excitement as her whole body moves in anticipation of what's to come. Smiles turn into full-fledged laughs that will make the stresses of the day seem wholly insignificant compared to the beautiful sight that is your baby's joy.

Toward the tail end of this period of language development, your baby will start to make all kinds of good noises. She'll squeal with delight and grunt with displeasure. She'll start to blow raspberries, smack her lips, and use some little consonant sounds every now and then. And each and every one of her sounds will be a building block toward that long awaited first word.

Find out what's next: 6-12 months

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