Category Archives: Social & Emotional

The science behind baby-talk: more than a guilty pleasure!

Why is it that adults become all of a sudden fluent in “motherese” when there’s a baby in the proximity?

When you find yourself in the company of young children, be it your kids, a friend’s, or just the cute baby in her mother’s arms that you crossed at the coffee shop, chances are you have experienced for yourself that automatic and hard to ignore temptation to engage in the caricaturized “baby-talk” with them. What has science got to say about this phenomenon? And beyond its cuteness, is it actually beneficial for your baby’s linguistic and socio-emotional development?

When adults talk to babies and pre-linguistic infants, no matter what part of the world they are in or what language they use (anthropologists have found it native communities from Sri Lanka to Siberia), their speech gravitates towards using some particular features of what is formally known as “infant-directed speech”. This form of addressing infants is characterized by being an emotionally-charged and melodic tone with a higher pitch than usual. Vowels are stretched out, sentences are simplified, and facial gestures and emotional intonation is stressed. These characteristics of baby-talk are particularly emphasized by adults when they are addressing very young babies, and then naturally decrease as the child grows and his or her language skills develop. Continue reading

Making the switch

Why is it a big deal to let go of the bottle and finally welcome the sippy cup? Just like with any other toy or object, it’s likely your little one has gotten used to and attached to the bottle. Although a seemingly simple transition at plain sight, it can represent a huge deal for your baby. Staying on the bottle for a long time has detrimental effects on your baby’s teeth and cavities so plan ahead and begin gradually introducing the switch.

Studies suggest that you’ll have an easier time in this change if you start before your little one has reached the age of 1. As a parent, you’re your child’s best judge of character and as such you’ll know when the time is right. Plan accordingly so that no mayor stressful events pile up with this, such as a sibling coming soon or a big move. Continue reading

Learning to communicate: non-verbal cues

It is hard to think of living a life without language as this is the main mean to communicate thoughts, desires and needs to others. Babies find themselves in this position every day before they learn to talk. Therefore they need to use other forms of non-verbal communication to make themselves understood.

Babies have a strong desire to connect with others. For this reason, even before they can talk they use non-verbal sounds and body language to achieve this goal. Babies are active communicators but they don’t have the language to speak just yet. If you observe closely you’ll see how they communicate without words. By doing this they seek to obtain a response from their caregivers and when they do, they learn to repeat these actions to get their needs met.

The moment babies take their first breath outside of the womb they begin to communicate. Crying, cooing and squealing are all non-verbal cues that they use to get a response from a loving parent. As they get a bit older, they learn to communicate via facial expressions such as smiling and eye contact. Babies also move their bodies to get a message across, for example moving their legs or arms when excited or in distress. As they reach the age of 8-12 months they further develop this skill by learning to wave, clap and point.

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Close to your heart: Babywearing 101

Chances are you’ve come across the terms babywearing, baby carrier, or baby wrap, as these seem to have taken over social-media feeds, parenting blogs, and even newborn’s fashion.

Along with this surge in its popularity, important questions can arise around babywearing, such as “what does babywearing refer to?”, “how do I use a baby carrier?”, “are baby wraps safe?”, among others. Don’t worry, in today’s blog entry we’re going to guide you through some of the “whys” and the “hows” of babywearing so that you can better decide whether or not it’s something you want to try.

According to the NGO Babywear International, baby wearing refers to the practice of using a baby carrier to keep your baby close to your body while you engage in your everyday activities. This method of transporting your baby as you go about the day has been the norm for many native cultures of Mexico, Peru, Indonesia, etc., and has proven to be a safe and effective tool for many caregivers throughout the centuries. Today there is a wide array of baby carriers available, so you can find one to cater to every budget and taste.

Let’s have a look at why babywearing may be so appealing nowadays, and note some important considerations about its implementation.

Benefits

  • Conveys a sense of bonding similar to that of cradling your baby in your arms, but without compromising your mobility (ex. it allows for a stroller-free and hands-free walk in the park) Continue reading

Is your child overactive? You might want to read this!

Children are often told to sit still. This happens everywhere, and it’s necessary sometimes like at school, during mealtime, and at home and when they don’t, we often believe that they are misbehaving or that we as parents may be doing something wrong. When children become overstimulated, their high energy levels can often go through the roof. What can you do to help your little one calm down and focus?

  1. Let your child fidget
    • Your child can simply be bored and may feel the need to stand up and move around. A small amount of physical movement can help a child focus more. Loren Shlaes, a pediatric occupational therapist in New York City suggests allowing a child to hold a fidget toy such as a stress ball.
  2. Go outside
    • Moving around is a good way of helping your child pay attention so the more activity the better. Playing outside stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin – both neurotransmitters that are critical for attention, focus, impulse control and learning. Some children focus and listen so much better after taking a walk or just being around nature. Dr Swanson suggests children spend at least an hour a day outdoors. A recent study at Auburn University found a single 30-minute stint of exercise helped preschooler’s ability to pay attention in class, compared with being sedentary. Continue reading

Your baby’s smile

You’ve probably seen his first reflexive smile when he sleeps, but when he looks right into your eyes and smiles, it’s a magical moment that you’ll forever treasure. How can you tell the difference between a social smile and a reflexive one? Keep reading and find out. 

Your baby’s first smile will be spontaneous, a reflexive smile, and it’ll probably happen when he or she is asleep. During REM sleep your baby’s body goes through physiological changes, and one of these produces a smile. However at this point it’s probably just a physical reaction, not an emotional one. This reflex can even be considered a part of your little one’s survival instinct, such as rooting, sucking and moro reflexes.   

After a few months, playtime gets more exciting! Making funny faces, voices and cuddling will make your baby smile in reaction to sensory experiences, not a social response. However, you can try and encourage a smile! This smile is known as responsive smile, and usually appears between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Continue reading

What are the outcomes for babies who are born bashful?

Is your child bashful? To determine the answer to this question you may ask yourself how would you describe your child’s temperament. Too often people tend to confuse shyness or behavioral inhibition with introversion (Weir, 2014). As both shy and introverted children’s response to social interactions may seem the same, it’s quite different.

According to Koraly Pérez-Edgar, a developmental psychologist at Penn State University, bashful children really want to socialize with others, but it’s too overwhelming and difficult to them. They really crave social interactions, but at the same time it’s too stressful for them to socialize. On the other hand, introverted children are not really interested in social interactions, as they prefer spending time by themselves. So, how can you detect if your child is shy? Pérez-Edgar says that bashful children have these in common: they are timid, and often show a coy smile.

When can you find out if your child is bashful?

According to longitudinal studies from Harvard and the University of Maryland, signs of behavioral inhibition or shyness can be seen before a baby’s first birthdate (Weir, 2014). One of these signs is sensitivity to novelty. For example, babies react with signs of distress when shown a new musical toy. Later on, this sensitivity to novel things gets canalized into a sensitivity to social novelty (Weir, 2014). This is one of the reasons why it’s more common for a bashful child to develop social anxiety compared to an introverted child.

Is being bashful an all downside?

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Why should we praise children’s actions instead of their innate qualities?

Parents praise their children for many different things, especially during their first few years of life when they are constantly learning and accomplishing new tasks. Be it that their children finally learned to walk, or simply look extremely beautiful, parents tend to constantly praise their children for almost everything. It seems as if they were hired to play cheerleaders for their children the whole day.

And don’t get me wrong, this is great! Babies need this kind of social support to keep up, learn, and grow. But, the thing is that not all types of praises benefit children in the same way. It all depends on the chosen words and whether these words are focusing on the toddler’s efforts, or on his/her physical and individual characteristics. For instance, the phrase “good job” focuses on the toddler’s actions, and “good girl” focuses on the toddler as an individual. Even though both of these phrases may sound quite similar, they have very different effects on toddlers. A study found that toddlers are better prepared for future life challenges when they are praised for their actions and efforts, rather than for their innate qualities.

Researchers studied a group of over 50 toddlers while interacting with their parents. They videotaped these babies and watched them five years later. They found that toddlers who were praised for their efforts during their first three years of life were more prepared to overcome life’s challenges. The reason is that these children believed they had the ability to learn, become smarter, and grow. Their parents had helped them believe in themselves and in their ability to make things happen by putting some work and effort. Moreover, researchers found that more boys were praised for their actions and efforts than were girls. So, even though girls were praised with phrases like: “you are so smart,” they were less likely to believe that they could develop those same traits, and therefore were less likely to challenge themselves. Continue reading

Playdates 101

If you are thinking of organizing play dates…Congrats! That means you have mastered the diaper changing and feeding, and, hopefully, you’re getting some sleep and even managed to start showering every day.

So probably now you have a bunch of questions about play dates, is my baby ready for play dates? How long should it last? What are some do’s and don’ts I should know? Don’t worry, we will give you some tips and try to clear the air around all of your questions.

You can start right now!

If you have an infant, playdates ten to be more about you, the mommies. It is important you find mommies that you can relate to so that you can talk about the daily routine, breastfeeding or bottle-feeding and even funny or not-so-funny stories. Don’t worry, they will totally understand as they are on the same page as you. During these playdates babies will be able to profit from being exposed to new toys, an unfamiliar environment, and even another small person lying next to them, even if they sleep most of the time. Continue reading

Why should you hold on to some parenting practices?

Change is in our nature! We live in a world that is constantly changing, where we have learned to adapt to new situations and environments. As we discover and experience new things, our parenting practices and cultural beliefs change with us.

Experience has taught us that some old-fashioned social or parenting practices are not good for us, so we strive to change them entirely. But, what about questions we haven’t been able to answer yet? Or wrong knowledge that we thought it was right? New research found that some past parenting practices and cultural beliefs were actually pretty good, and should not be abandoned, since they are necessary for a healthy brain development.

Human babies are born with needs, as their brains haven’t fully developed yet. Narvaez says that ancestral early parenting involved breast-feeding, responsivity, touch, play, and natural childbirth. Studies have found that all of these nurturing practices have a positive impact on a child’s developing brain. For instance, breastfeeding provides nutrients and helps create bonding between mother and baby. Play is an essential form of learning and expressing in children that helps babies develop both social skills and self-control. And touch as a form of language affects empathy and self-control. The problem is that we have abandoned some of these parenting practices, since our cultural or contemporary beliefs have changed, and so, our behavior towards children has changed, too.

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