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It’s science: infants learn better when we use ‘baby talk’

The tone of your voice can make all the difference. 

It’s science: infants learn better when we use ‘baby talk’

Mamas, we know baby talk may seem silly, but babbling to your newborn is one of the best things you can do for their development. Studies show that constantly talking to your little one can strengthen their language skills and boost their brain power.


Now, new research shows that baby talk isn’t the only way infants learn—mama’s vocal timbre plays a big role, too.

A new study published in Current Biology found that, when mothers engage in baby talk, they shift the way their voice sounds, indicating that their overall timbre—or tone color—may help infants recognize people, places and things. Vocal timbre is the unique quality of your voice that’s distinct from its pitch and intensity (so think a tone that is warm, flat, mellow, breathy or piercing).

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“[W]e do know timbre provides an important pointer to different sound sources, thus helping us identify people, animals and objects based on their characteristic auditory ‘fingerprints,’” lead study author Elise Piazza writes in an op-ed for the Washington Post. “So, we wondered whether mothers might unconsciously change their overall fingerprints when talking to their babies, perhaps to signal that an important source of speech, which is highly relevant for learning, is coming their way.

For the study, researchers from Princeton University recorded mamas as they played and read to their 7 to 12-month-old babies, as well as communicated with an adult experimenter. What they learned is that a mother’s tone color naturally—and “possibly unconsciously,” Piazza writes—changes when talking to their infant. And their timbre fingerprint is markedly different when speaking to adults, the experiment showed.

Of the findings, Piazza writes, “Hopefully this is reassuring for parents feeling self-conscious about their own baby talk: However strange you may think you sound, chances are you’re helping your baby learn, and you’re in good company.”

What’s more: The researchers found that this shift in vocal timbre breaks the language barrier. They studied two groups of mamas—one English-speaking, one non-English-speaking—and discovered that, no matter the language spoken, mothers altered their tone color when engaging with their little ones. The shift occurred across nine languages (Spanish, French, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, German, Hebrew, Mandarin and Cantonese), which Piazza says suggests that these timbre changes “may represent a universal form of communication with infants.”

“Being able to identify baby talk across multiple languages could give us rich information about the amount and type of language children hear at home and at preschool ... across different cultural environments,” she continues. “This could help researchers and educators predict and improve outcomes such as vocabulary and success in school.”

It’s so fascinating how our voices can have such an important and lasting impact on our infants’ development. You may think it's silly to jabber on and talk nonsense to your newborn, but really, you’re teaching them so much. So mamas, keep up with all the funny voices. You’re not just making your baby smile, you’re helping their mind grow, too!

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These are only the vitamins I give my children and here's why

It's hard to say who loves these more—my kids or me.

When I became a mama five years ago, I didn't put too much thought into whether my son was getting the right vitamins and minerals. From breastfeeding to steaming and pureeing his first bites of solid food, I was confident I was giving him everything to support his growth and development.

But then the toddler years—and the suddenly picky palate that accompanied them—came along. Between that challenge and two additional children in the mix… well, I knew my oldest son's eating plan was falling short in some vitamin and mineral categories.

I also knew how quickly he was growing, so I wanted to make sure he was getting the nutrients he needed (even on those days when he said "no, thank you" to any veggie I offered).

So when I discovered the new line of children's supplements from Nature's Way®, it felt like a serious weight off my chest. Thanks to supplements that support my children's musculoskeletal growth, their brain function, their immune systems, their eyes and more, I'm taken back to that simpler time when I was so confident my kids' vitamin needs were met.*

It wasn't just the variety of supplements offered by Nature's Way that won me over: As a vegetarian mama, I'm the picky one in the family when it comes to scanning labels and making sure they meet our standards. The trick is that most gummy vitamins are made with gelatin, which is not vegetarian friendly.

But just like the other offerings from Nature's Way that I've already come to know and love, the children's supplement line is held to a high standard. That means there's no high-fructose corn syrup, gelatin or common allergens to be found in the supplements. The best part? My two oldest kids ensure we never miss their daily vitamins—they are so in love with the gummy flavors, which include tropical fruit punch, lemonade and wild berry.


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Meanwhile, my pharmacist husband has different criteria when evaluating supplements, especially when it comes to those for our kids. He appreciates the variety of options from Nature's Way, which gives us the ability to rotate the vitamins based on our kids' daily needs. By keeping various children's supplements from Nature's Way on hand, I can customize a regimen to suit my kids' individual requirements.

Of course, high-quality products often come at a higher price point. But (to my immense gratitude!) that isn't the case with Nature's Way, which retails for a competitive value when compared to the other items on the shelf.

Like all mamas, my chief concern is supporting my children's health in any way I can. While I see evidence of their growth every time I pack away clothes they've outgrown, I know there is much more growth that doesn't meet the eye. That's why, for my oldest son, I like stacking the Brain Builder gummy with the Growing Bones & Muscles gummy and the Happy & Healthy Multi. My 3-year-old also enjoys getting her own mix to include the Healthy Eyes gummy. And both of my older kids are quick to request the Tummy Soothe tablet when something isn't sitting right in their stomachs.* And I'll admit it: I've tried it myself and the berry blast flavor really is tasty!

Although my current phase of motherhood may not be as "simple" as it once was, there is so much to appreciate about it—like watching my kids play and sing and create with their incredible imaginations. Along the way, I've eased up on some of my need for control, but it does help to have this range of supplements in my motherhood tool kit. So while I may not be able to convince my son to try kale, having the Nature's Way supplements on hand means I do know he's right on track.*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


This article was sponsored by Nature's Way. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

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If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

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Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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