My mother once told me that, when I was little, the only way she knew I was asleep was when I stopped talking. I'm still a chatterbox. But until recently, I didn't know that the same characteristic that probably drove my mother crazy was perfect for new motherhood.
As soon as my son was born, I started a conversation with him that's continued to this day. Of course, the conversation was one-sided, at first.
Long before I expected him to answer me, I'd talk to my son as I wheeled him down the aisles of the supermarket, commenting on my selections. "What do you think about this brand of spaghetti sauce? Doesn't it look good? Hmmm. I think maybe you're right. Let's try another one."
Shopping in a department store, I'd bring my son into the dressing room with me, and chat while I tried on clothes. "Do you like these jeans? How about this pair? I love them, too!" When I'd come out of the dressing room without a girlfriend, but with a baby, I'd try to ignore the strange looks I would get from people.
So it wasn't really surprising when my son started talking at an early age, too. And then stringing words together. And then sentences. Later, when a bully terrorized most of my son's preschool class, I called the teacher, worried that my son -- small for his age -- was being victimized. "Oh no, not him," the teacher said. "Whenever that boy tries to take his toy or push him, he just uses his words and tells the boy to leave him alone. And he does."
I chat with my son because I enjoy it, because it feels right, and because it keeps him amused. I read endless books to him, too. Recently, I learned that the more words a baby hears in the first few years of life, the more adept that child will be with language. Now when I pass a mother in the supermarket who's wheeling her child silently down the aisle, I want to ask, "what does your baby think about that cereal you just bought?"
Want to help your baby learn to talk? Then tell him so!
Beth Weinhouse is an award-winning journalist who specializes in writing about parenting issues and women's health. She's been an editor at Ladies' Home Journal and Parenting magazines, and her work has appeared in dozens of consumer magazines and websites.
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.