Baby Babble

Woman holding a baby crying

Hey moms, it’s time to lean into your… baby talk?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

All parents know, it’s important to vocally interact with your babies. Your baby loves your voice. So talk! Sing! Babble! But how can we be sure our little cooing machines got the message?

Researchers from the University of Cambridge delved into babies’ minds to find out. They had adult volunteers sing nursery rhymes to thirty-six infants. Both with and without eye contact. Meanwhile, they recorded brain waves from both the infants and the adults.

The babies were too young to sing the words. But they tried to provide backup. With some Goo Goo Ga Ga and other baby babble. Guess what? Direct eye contact made the babies MORE vocal. AND it put the babies’ and adults’ brain waves in sync. Like a perfect chorus!

Interestingly, the strongest sync-up occurred with the adults’ heads tilted to the side. When paired with eye contact, this head position signals eagerness to communicate.

So, next time you sing to your baby, make sure to tilt your head. Wearing an adult-sized Teletubby suit? Optional.

Reference: Leong, V., Byrne, E., Clackson, K., Georgieva, S., Lam, S., & Wass, S. (2017). Speaker gaze increases information coupling between infant and adult brains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(50), 13290–13295.