Friday, November 7, 2014

Talking Early and Often to Babies: Closing the Word Gap Between Mothers and Fathers

By: Lewis First, MD, MS; Editor-in-Chief 

Photo by Chris O'Brian via Flickr
A key takeaway of the recent AAP National Conference and Exhibition (NCE) meeting was the emphasis on early childhood literacy and the need to increase talking time with your infants and toddlers as much as possible to promote early brain and child development. Yet how are we doing in making this happen?

Johnson et al. (doi: 10.1542/peds. 2013-4289) report on a prospective cohort study of late preterm and term infant whose vocalizations were recorded, along with parent conversation, during their birth hospitalization and again at 44 weeks post-menstrual age and at 7 months (corrected age). The results show that mothers respond more to their baby’s vocalizations than fathers, and when parents do vocalize with their babies, there is a remarkable gender preference.

So are we happy with these findings, or can we as health care professionals do even more? How often do you talk to parents about conversing with their baby? Do you make sure the quieter parent upgrades their game, rather than let the other partner do the honors, so baby gets a balanced perspective and even more brain stimulation than just from the more vocal parent?

This article sounds off with a number of thought-provoking findings that we hope you share with new parents as they start talking with their babies. There’s a lot to talk out loud about in this study—and I hope you do (perhaps even with your infant).

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