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My baby girl is 30 days old; she can not talk or comprehend language yet.

When she cries, does it help to comfort her by talking to her? Or might our voices irritate her even more?


Update: I and my wife keep talking to my baby girl when she cries, it comforts her in some way.

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    Let me add: you can edit the question again if any of our grammatical changes have altered the meaning. Looking at the original version, I think it's correct that you’re asking about more than one person speaking. – JDługosz Jun 14 '17 at 22:36
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    Have you tried this? Why not try it and see if it works? Do you have any actual concerns? Like what exactly do you think could go wrong if you did? – Möoz Jun 16 '17 at 1:56
  • "she can not talk or comprehend language yet": by talking to her, you will give her the opportunity to learn! – Clément Jun 16 '17 at 13:20
  • what @Clément states above is very true: human brains are basically data processing/pattern recognition sponges. Babies are always collecting and subconsciously processing input data to estabilish patterns. Language is the most important one, being the cornerstone of thought. Keep talking. – Mindwin Jun 16 '17 at 13:58

11 Answers 11

54

If you want to do what is best for your baby, then you should be talking to her pretty much all the time, except when she's asleep. So yes, talk to her when she cries; your voices will let her know she's being heard.

Please know that she heard you talking when she was in your uterus. Although the sound is a bit different now, the cadence, rhythm, etc., are the same. So, it would certainly be soothing to her to speak to her softly when she is crying. Yours is the most soothing voice she knows.The baby may not stop crying immediately, but it won't hurt her (she will still fall asleep, etc.).

It might also help to know when crying peaks in babies, because it is probably getting worse these days. Babies' crying peaks at about six weeks then gradually gets better.

You might look at this question and its answers as well as this one to get more information on why speaking to infants matters.

Editted to add: Apologies to the OP for presuming you are the mother. If you are the father, by all means please talk to your baby. The answer is only slightly different if you are the dad. :)

Effects of experience on fetal voice recognition.

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    This advice only seems applicable to one who mothered the baby, which OP doesn't state (besides might our voice irritate). Does this apply also to someone who was around often (e.g. a partner)? – Tas Jun 13 '17 at 22:23
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    @Tas: I'd say yes. Babies don't know how to be alone yet. A familiar voice that talks to them must be much better than silence - a baby doesn't have any context to interpret silence, and how long it's going to last, and while she probably won't understand much of what you say to her, I'd think that both the familiarity of the voice and the tone of voice will make her feel safe. (Apart from that, talking to babies prepares them for picking up language; they won't learn how to talk if you don't talk to them - the more, the better) – Pascal says Talk To Monica Jun 13 '17 at 22:48
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    @Tas - I agree completely with Pascal here. The baby heard dad's voice as well, depending on how much he was present, but not as well as mom's. No discrimination intended. Dad's voice is soothing as well. – anongoodnurse Jun 14 '17 at 2:04
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    Bit of personnal experience here:I am VERY talkative, and my GF is shy and doesn't speak that much. I read and hummed and talked to our daughter a LOT during the pregnancy, and I can say she definitely knew my voice when she was a couple of days old. – Patrice Jun 14 '17 at 4:13
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    I am the dad, :-) – Yu Zhang Jun 16 '17 at 4:54
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I'd suggest you just try it. Whatever works, works. You'll notice soon enough what makes her calm down, and what doesn't.

I don't think there are rules to this, and not all babies respond to exactly the same things, even though some things generally work better than others. A lot depends on why the baby is crying. If she's hungry, most likely nothing except feeding her will work. If she's upset or scared or hurting, then holding her and talking to her will help to calm her. I think it's unlikely that your voice will irritate her; remember that it's your voice that she's heard for all her life, even when she wasn't born yet, and it's more likely that the absence rather than the presence of that voice is irritating.

With my oldest son, we never knew why he was crying all the time, but I noticed that when I sang to him in a deep voice while carrying him to and fro, that often helped to calm him down. At other times, nothing helped at all.

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    "Whatever works, works." This is a potentially dangerous rationale. I'm not saying that the advice of trying to talk to your baby is bad, but rationalizing it by saying well if it works it works is dangerous. Using the same rationale, I can get my kids to be quiet by giving them whatever they want when they throw a tantrum. Stops the tantrum, and whatever works, works, right? – corsiKa Jun 13 '17 at 20:15
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    I didn't mean that to be taken out of context - I was talking specifically of trying to calm down crying babies. And in that case, I think you don't have to worry about long-term consequences - I don't think you can spoil a baby by trying to calm it down. Babies don't work like that. There's something wrong right now, and they cry because that's the only thing they know how to do to get your attention. – Pascal says Talk To Monica Jun 13 '17 at 22:52
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    @corsiKa - Please use common sense and courtesy. A large dose of sleep medication would render the baby quiet,too, but no one in their right mind is advocating that. You're seeing what you want to see here, which is a problem, and your reaction is inflammatory. – anongoodnurse Jun 14 '17 at 13:31
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    @anongoodnurse In what way am I not using common sense, not being courteous, or being inflammatory? What would be in inflammatory would be saying that giving in to the pressures of a tantrum and drugging a child are the same. Or suggesting that "I have a problem" when I see rationale that I consider dangerous and want to make sure people get the best possible advice. What might also be inflammatory would be abusing your diamond power to delete comments that support my position because it happens to conflict with yours. Honestly, how many personal attacks can you fit in one comment? It hurts. – corsiKa Jun 14 '17 at 18:53
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    @corsiKa - Your implication that I'm deleting comments supporting you is in error. The comment I removed was unconstructive/chatty. There's no abuse here. If you want to give the best possible advice, an answer would be helpful, not a comment misinterpreting the OP's answer. – anongoodnurse Jun 14 '17 at 20:23
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She is an infant. At this point she knows two things: I am content, I am not content. If the baby is crying soothe it. If that means talking, talk. If that means touching, touch. You will quickly understand your child. At this stage there are no tantrums. The baby doesn't understand much of anything. You will not spoil her by picking her up or talking to her. She simply knows she is happy, safe and secure or not. Letting her cry to toughen her up, and I have heard that theory offered, is just stupid.

  • I concur as well with a baby's two states of content or not. Though when my son was just born, we used a bit more colorful terms for it! – bubbajake00 Jun 15 '17 at 14:33
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From my experience, easiest way to comfort a newborn is to hold it so that they can hear your heartbeat (on the chest). One of the constants before birth is the heartbeat of the mother, and therefore, hearing a heartbeat (not necessarily the mothers' heartbeat) will comfort the baby.

Speaking in a calm manner and with a low tone of voice helps as well, but if the baby is already crying, it may be unable to hear you over his own 'song'. Raising the voice trying to cover the crying baby is not recommended, because it may startle or frighten the baby.

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Your voice will not irritate your baby girl, unless of course you're yelling, or talking in an angry tone.

Talking on its own though, will rarely sooth a crying child. Gentle physical contact is usually much more effective.

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    Wait 13 years and then see if your voice irritates your child... – stannius Jun 15 '17 at 0:08
  • @stannius (..) will not irritate your baby girl - 13 years later, baby no more. – Mindwin Jun 16 '17 at 14:16
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At this age, it depends on what works. I found for mine, usually singing or shushing calmed them better. There is no harm in talking, I just didn't find it super helpful with tiny babies who are crying. I also breastfed all my babies, so at this age, usually I'd offer a breast if possible & that seemed the most effective of all. I did often talk to them while nursing though. I talked to my kids a lot, still do. I think it's a wonderful thing to do, but when it comes to crying, just do what helps & calms everyone down. Congrats on your new baby!

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I think talking helps. If she hears your voice consistently when she is comforted, then the familiarity will be comforting, itself, and she will come to associate it with you, along with the usual emotional bond and attachment. It's entirely possible that she already recognizes tone, etc, from hearing you when still in the womb.

"Babies hear sounds from the outside world at 16 weeks gestation," says Deena H. Blumenfeld, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. "They also recognize their parents' voices from the moment they are born. If dad sings to the baby while baby is still in the womb, baby will know the song, calm and look to dad."

Parenting.com: Eight Ways Dad-to-Be Can Bond With Baby Now

The way children develop the brain connections to develop language is to hear language, so even if she isn't there yet, that won't just suddenly happen like flipping a switch - your talking to her will be helpful to her language development, overall. That is how she will eventually develop the language - getting that stimulation, so it's really never too early.

By 6 months of age, most babies recognize the basic sounds of their native language.

NIDCD: Speech and Language Development Milestones

Getting irritated by your voice is something that develops more around puberty. :D

2

Learning happens.

You are a team; learn to work together. Whatever you do to comfort her she will pretty soon associate with being comforted if the comforting works. You both want her not to be unhappy, and the more time you spend together the easier it is expected to be to know what will work. 30 days is not a long time, you both will learn so much this next year it'll blow your mind.

Do what you want.

A large part of what I have found to help comfort unhappy babies is being relaxed. If you are comfortable, relaxed and confident anything you do will be more soothing. And talking is a common way to help empower yourself.

She may know more than you think.

If you have talked while she was growing she may know your voice. Certainly she won't know what the words mean, but she may have some idea of what your tone means. She is expected to learn to understand words before using them so it is difficult to know exactly what she knows; sometime in the next year or so she will learn what some words mean, and you won't really know when that is. The only safe way to avoid not using soothing words she knows is to use them too early.

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Don’t forget the mentor and tutor you can trust in these matters: ask her NăiNai. What worked on you and Mom at that age?

2

Intuition is great in human relationships, including but not limited to relationships between parents and children. Would it feel good to talk and soothe her? Then do it. Sometimes it also helps to imagine the contrary. What if somebody forbade you to talk to your daughter? I imagine that would be terrible. Consider this excerpt from a Wikipedia article about the topic:

An experiment allegedly carried out by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century saw young infants raised without human interaction in an attempt to determine if there was a natural language that they might demonstrate once their voices matured. It is claimed he was seeking to discover what language would have been imparted unto Adam and Eve by God.

The experiments were recorded by the monk Salimbene di Adam in his Chronicles, who wrote that Frederick encouraged "foster-mothers and nurses to suckle and bathe and wash the children, but in no ways to prattle or speak with them; for he would have learnt whether they would speak the Hebrew language (which he took to have been the first), or Greek, or Latin, or Arabic, or perchance the tongue of their parents of whom they had been born. But he laboured in vain, for the children could not live without clappings of the hands, and gestures, and gladness of countenance, and blandishments."

It is heartbreaking and touching, isn't it? So unless you feel that your baby needs silence or a gentle humming: Follow your heart and ask her what's wrong. She will respond in due time.

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    There are some (involuntary) modern (late 20th century) equivalents of that experiment. What comes to mind is Romanian orphanages which were so underfunded and overcrowded that the orphans didn't receive individual care above the bare necessities. Studies have shown that this has various lasting negative impacts on brain development. What's also interesting - and possibly more relevant - is that TV doesn't seem to be a good substitute for live interaction. – Pascal says Talk To Monica Jun 14 '17 at 14:30
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If you are only going to bother talking to your child once it comprehends language, how is it going to learn language in the first place?

Don't think about what makes sense to your child: you have to make sense to yourself. Your child may not be able to pick up the message right away, but it does pick up the messenger much more thoroughly than you imagine and thus eventually also learns to interpret the messages on their own.

protected by Becuzz Jun 23 '17 at 11:54

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