It’s no secret that men and women are different (that’s how you two ended up making a baby in the first place!), but how does that affect children?
A study in the journal Pediatrics explored how much moms and dads, respectively, each talk to their infants, by recording the sounds baby was hearing and counting the words.
The findings were fascinating and crucial for families to pay attention to. The gift of a language-rich environment from day one of baby’s life is one of the most important things you’ll give your little one.
We’re sharing some of the findings from the study, courtesy of Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, also known as MamaDoc.
Here’s what mom + dad need to know about talking to baby.
1. Moms + dads differ.
When it comes to chatting with their babies, women are much more vocal than men.
What researchers found most notable was how big the gap was between how moms and dads talked with their babies. They called the difference “striking.”
In the study, babies were found to, on average, “…receive nearly 3 times as much language input from their mothers than their fathers from birth through 7 months of age.”
Further, researchers evaluated how babies responded to language from their moms versus their dads in “language blocks,” which are basically back-and-forth dialogues.
They found infants preferentially responded to mothers during newborn, 1 month and 7 months of age when compared to their fathers.
2. How we talk to baby boys + girls differs.
Compared to men, women were found to be more receptive to “baby talk”—those screams, gurgles and gibberish that come out before infants learn words.
Men do tend to talk more when their baby boy is the one initiating conversation compared to a baby girl, whereas moms spoke more to girls than to their baby boys.
Same-gender infant-parent pairs seem to have some synergy.
The difference here was large as well—men respond to baby-talk between 20% and 30% of the time, compared to women responding about 90% of the time.
Of note, researchers also found that babies had relatively few interactions with their fathers that were independent or apart from their moms, meaning that when dads are talking to their infants, the moms are often present and nearby.
3. Engagement matters.
Infants’ total exposure to parent-talk increased from birth to 7 months of age, presumably because as babies mature they become more engaging and we talk with them more and more.
The big takeaways: Talking with your baby is an example of more being better. There are all sorts of reminders in this study that communicating, laughing, singing and involving our children in our verbal lives from day one is a huge priority for both moms and dads.