Using Baby Talk Words With Your Infant Helps Build Their Language Skills

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Admit it: you’ve used baby talk with your babies. And toddlers. Maybe even your older kids and/or pets! It’s almost impossible not to sneak in some cutesy baby words after you become a parent. We’re not really talking about the goo-goo gah-gah speak. Instead, we’re talking about using infantilized words, like boo-boo for an injury or milkies for breast milk or bottles. It seems like we slide right into talking this way after we have kids! As it turns out, all that baby talk is actually really beneficial to your babies. A new study shows that using more baby words with infants helps them develop their language skills.

Infants who are exposed to more baby talk are quicker to grasp language, according to the study.

Linguists at the University of Edinburgh found that words ending in “-y”, like mommy, tummy, and puppy, as well as double words like choo-choo for train, helped babies develop their language skills faster. They studied 47 audio samples of infants being spoken to, and looked for baby talk words. In addition to the -y and double words, they looked for words that sound like their meaning (splash, woof).

In order to measure the rate of language development, they measured the number of words each infant had at 9, 15, and 21 months.

Infants who were exposed to more of certain kinds of baby talk during the first phase of the study developed their language skills at a faster rate between 9 – 21 months. Words ending in -y (diminutive words) and the double words (reduplication) had the greatest impact on language development. Says Lead researcher Mitsuhiko Ota, “Our findings suggest that diminutives and reduplication, which are frequently found in baby talk words — across many different languages — can facilitate the early stage of vocabulary development.”

So even if you feel like kind of a fool for using baby talk with your baby, keep it up! Those cute little words are having a big impact on their developing brain.

(Image: iStock/NataliaDeriabina)