As a speech therapist it has obviously been so exciting to watch my baby daughter’s communication skills develop! To watch her go from what looked like a mere observer of human life, passive and watching from the outside, to a fully fledged, active, engaged (and engaging!) social being. As a new Mum I have obviously convinced myself that she has already said her first word! And I think that word is…wait for it…”OK”. Now that I’ve picked up on this I hear CB say this constantly throughout the day – a word that peppers her adorable early babble sounds. Now, I know she doesn’t understand what she is saying and her word obviously doesn’t sound exactly like my version of the word – it sounds more like “nnngay”. Maybe I’m imagining things (I blame the sleep deprivation and my hazy new mum status!). Maybe my Speech Therapist ear is so well-trained that I am picking up things that aren’t even there! But babies do start imitating speech in the first few months after birth and are familiar with all the sounds of their native language as early as 4 months of age – so it might not be so unbelievable that CB was unwittingly trying out her first real words already!
Of course, as a Speech Therapist, I thought I knew a lot about babies vocal development. That was before my little one was born. Something I didn’t know was how noisy newborns are from birth! I expected the crying, cooing, the blowing raspberries, the squeals and all the other cute gurgley sounds the babies on the nappy adverts make when trying to communicate. However, I was completely unprepared for the unladylike grunting, throat clearing and generally scary involuntary sounds that babies make that stop their Mum’s from sleeping though the night! While everyone else in my family was laughing away (“What funny sounds she’s making! Hahaha”) I was busy panicking that my poor little girl was choking or going to have vocal fold nodules before she was even a month old! I did eventually get used to these noises and my Chatter Baby soon expanded her repertoire of speech sounds to those I was more familiar with. I was also reminded of how unprepared my little girls digestive system was for the outside world! Not every sound she made was her trying to communicate with me, sometimes it was just about getting a bit of wind. Who knew it was seriously hard work!
I’ve started video journal of CB’s speech (I will be posting videos below) so I will definitely be keeping a close eye on this “nnngay” to see what it turns into. However, it does look like I am actually experiencing how children can be a perfect mirror of their parents. It turns out that a word I say hundreds of times a day is, surprise surprise, “OK!”. Now that I’m tuned in I can I hear myself saying it “OK! Let’s change your nappy OK?… OK I’m just going to put you on the bed for a minute…OK! Let’s put you on the changing table now…OK! OK! we’re nearly finished! Don’t cry …OK we’re finished!!” I even recall myself desperately making up a song featuring this word when CB randomly started crying in her car seat while I was driving “Mama’s gonna make it OK, OK! Mama’s gonna make it OKAAAY! Mama’s gonna make it OK in a minute. Mama’s gonna make it OKAAAY!” (repeat infinitum until baby stops/doesn’t stop crying). So I guess, with all that (auditory) bombardment of this word my poor girl didn’t stand a chance! Word to the wise – figure out what yours and/or your partner’s favourite word is then listen closely. You may hear a baby version of it sooner than you think!