What were we thinking! promote confidence and reduce distress in parents with a first baby

"Read to my baby? Now?!"

By Sue Doogan

I have lost count of the number of parents that look at me incredulously when I ask if they have started reading to their baby. “Read? Now?” are two of the most common words out of the parent’s mouth. Talking to your baby as you go about your day-day activities all help to develop your baby’s language skills. Whether it’s pegging clothes on the line or nappy changes, preparing food, singing along to a song – it adds to the amount of words your baby is hearing, watching your facial expressions as you form words and they are also looking at your facial or hand gestures (or dancing!). When we add reading into this mix, the results for your baby’s development in literacy, numeracy and brain growth is truly wonderful. Also, the bonding and nurturing of your relationship that takes place between the two of you read, is equally important!

Think of the amount of learning your baby will do in the next 12 months – it never ceases to amaze me! From starting out in life as a totally dependent being, for all life’s necessities – food, shelter, warmth, love, etc to possibly walking (or not far off), babbling (a few words “da-da” etc.), making sounds and gestures when they want/need something, feeding themselves finger food etc. Babies are born to learn and it’s you, their parents who are guiding them from the very start. Reading to your baby has a lot to do with helping them develop in the future into well-rounded adults in particular their social, emotional and mental health.

Reading or storytelling is a lovely way to spend some one-on-one time or wind down after a busy day. You will have to look at your baby’s cues as to whether “now” is a good time to read – when your baby is not interested they will certainly show you! Don’t be disheartened, keep trying at different times of the day, different books, and different voices – even another language! Your baby loves listening to your voice whether it’s in speech or singing – the rhythm and rhyme that comes when we read children’s books or sing nursery rhymes or point to pictures in a book all add to your interaction with your baby - you will see their enjoyment. Here is just one link to a You Tube clip where the enjoyment that both father and son are getting from reading a book is priceless! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcR15DTDCsM .

Most local libraries have “Story Time” activities for different ages of children, from babies to pre-schoolers. Joining the library also gives you the opportunity to get you out of the house and socialise with like-minded people. Trying to build reading into your routine is the easiest way to make it happen. Maybe as a little prompt for both you and your baby we could slightly adapt the feed-play-sleep routine to “Feed-play-BOOK-sleep”. Cuddling and reading to your baby before you put them into bed is a lovely way to “signal” sleep is coming. Happy reading!

Sue Doogan is an experienced Maternal and Child Health Nurse who has been trained in the What Were We Thinking! program. She is based in Victoria’s outer-metro region of Mornington.

Posted in:  A new reality  Baby 0-4 weeks  Growth and development  Health Professionals  In this together