Written by Deborah Hart, from TinyTalk Kent Downs
So I guess the first question to ask should be why would you need to communicate with a newborn, when they can’t talk back yet? We get asked this all the time at TinyTalk, as the assumption is with little babies that they spend most of their time sleeping or feeding and have no need to communicate anything for some time yet. But actually the opposite is true.
A new baby will feel hungry, and cold, and tired, and overwhelmed, and confused, and anxious, and too warm… and the list goes on! If they are unable to express those needs, or unable to make their caregivers understand their efforts to communicate, they can only resort to crying. So communicating with a newborn is vital in navigating the often tricky journey through the ‘Fourth Trimester’ and helping your baby adjust to life outside the womb, without too stress and tears! (Theirs and yours!)
Understanding your baby
To best understand a new baby and their behaviour, you have to first appreciate the environment they have come from.
So let’s imagine for a moment being tucked up in a warm, fluid womb: you are supported and snug, you are softly and gently rocked around, you feel safe and protected, with all your needs met. We can put this in terms of a baby’s sensory experience:
- Sight – what your baby can see in the womb is limited. Things appears dark and soft, hazy and muffled. There are periods of lighter experience, but no clarity.
- Hearing – in the womb a baby’s hearing is muted but well developed. It’s a constantly noisy existence in there – heartbeat, womb noises including the Mother’s digestive system working, plus familiar noises from outside are experienced – voices, talking, animals etc
- Touch – in utero, a baby experiences the constant, warm, cushioning of the amniotic fluid supporting their body. They are rocked, cradled and safe.
- Smell (and taste) – An unborn baby experiences variations in flavour/scent by way of the Mother’s diet, but their exposure to scent is otherwise limited to the ‘taste’ of the Mother, the amniotic fluid, and the ‘personal’ smells of their environment.
In contrast to this, let’s explore how being out in the world might feel to a newborn used to the environment we have just described.
- Sight – lights are bright, stark and intrusive. High contrast patterns can be captivating but easily overwhelming.
- Hearing – complete silence (the house at night) and interruptive sounds (doorbell, dog barking etc all both equally disturbing.
- Touch – cold hands, jarring touches, scratchy clothes – all are unpleasant and disturbing. Smell – strong smells like heavy perfumes, air fresheners, fragranced linen etc are overpowering and unsettling. In addition, smell is linked to our memory so ‘home ‘smells are personal and familiar, and provide comfort.
Communicating With Your Newborn: They Have Lots to Say Already!
The upshot of all this is that if you can understand and empathise with a newborn’s previous experience of their environment, and mimic this where possible, you can ease your baby’s adjustment to life on the outside of the womb.
If you can transition them slowly and gradually from the womb to being out in the world it’s not such a shock, and you should find they settle much more easily, with benefits for all of you, such as less crying, a deeper bond between the family members, a more settled baby, an easier experience for the whole family with less stress, and more sleep! Doesn’t that sound good!
How TinyTalk can help you understand your baby
And this is what we explore at our TinyTalk Newborns communication workshop. We look at early communication cues – how tiny babies hands can indicate their feelings way before their cries do. We explore our baby’s receptiveness to sensory input and when they may be open to playing and learning. The newborn workshops are gentle and calm, offering families the chance to spend some quality time with their new child, alongside other likeminded parents.
The focus is on supporting your baby’s early development by tapping into these early communication cues. New babies rely heavily on their senses, so the classes look at supporting their vision and hearing, and their sense of touch and smell using age-appropriate toys and resources. You’ll learn lots about why your baby does what they do, and take away some useful skills and ideas which will help you through these challenging early months! And of course, because TinyTalk are renowened for their popular baby signing classes , you’ll also learn some great starter signs to use from the off, giving your new person a super headstart with their communication skills.
Supporting you and your baby online
Even though we are currently running online, there is still a strong social focus to the sessions, with a dedicated private Facebook group for sharing experiences and supporting each other. The class leaders can signpost you to helpful local professionals where you can explore some ideas in more depth, and help you create a valuable network tailored to your family’s needs. Through sharing experiences and ideas we support each other through tongue ties, first jabs, colic, reflux and celebrate the early milestones together. It’s a social opportunity for parents, as well as a safe space for exploring your new relationship.
You can start the workshop, which runs for 6 weeks, when your baby is anywhere up to 3 months old.
You’ll receive a weekly handout, access to supporting materials, and plenty of chance to practice in class, not to mention the support of your class leader and the other attendees. New parents often say how invaluable these friendships are, helping you through the challenges a new baby brings.
Because the TinyTalk newborns workshop is aimed at parents, it’s totally fine if your baby sleeps through the sessions. You can wake them if you wish, or you can let them sleep and take the chance to pick up some useful tools to use when your baby is more receptive. As we are currently online, you get to stay snuggled safely at home, you can even stay in your PJs!Register your interest for future workshops by contacting TinyTalk Kent Downs as below – you should join the workshop before your baby gets to 12 weeks old.
Don’t forget – your newborn may be tiny, but their capacity for learning is huge, and their inbuilt desire to be part of a social unit and feel close to you means they have A LOT to say already!