Babies can hear even before birth. In the womb, they grow accustomed to the sounds around them, like the comforting cadence of mom's heartbeat and the voices of those close to her. After birth, familiar sounds such as dad's voice or soft music will continue to soothe baby. You'll probably find yourself talking a certain way to your baby—using a higher pitch, plenty of eye contact, and an inflection at the ends of sentences, as if asking a question. This way of talking helps exaggerate the sounds of language and makes it easier for baby to learn.
Baby will be fascinated by the simplest sounds, like those that accompany the daily activities of your household—the crackle of the newspaper, or the squeak of a water faucet. You can encourage that interest by pointing out birds singing in the trees, an airplane passing overhead, or the beep-beep of a truck backing up. The whole world is your baby's symphony.
It's a good time now to introduce your baby to toys that make noise, squeak, or play music. Babies also love rattles, and you don't have to wait until your child can hold one without your help. You can gently shake the rattle yourself, attach a wrist rattle to baby's hand, or even put the rattle in baby's hand and move the hand so the rattle makes a sound.
Long before uttering first words, baby is paying attention to the rhythm of your speech. As you go through your daily routine, describe what you're doing: 'First we put the shirt over your head. Then we help your right arm go through one small opening, and now your left arm goes through the other.' The give-and-take of daily interaction teaches baby communication as well as the basic patterns and rhythms of language. Make silly noises at the slightest provocation, and vary the speed and accent of your one-way conversation. Your baby will love it—and will eventually start 'talking' back to you in a language all baby's own.
Baby will experiment with countless different sounds, first forming vowels, then consonants, and later putting the two together. You'll be most excited about the sounds baby makes that are actually words (especially 'Ma-ma' and 'Da-da') even if baby doesn't understand their significance. But baby's incoherent babble will certainly mean something special to you, as you and your baby together develop your own unique style of communication.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.