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Dads: Talking to Your Babies Helps Them Succeed

Dad playing with young son

Speak up, dads. Your babies will benefit from hearing your voice and words. That’s right. Studies show there’s a baby talk gap between mothers and fathers, and dads need more talk time with their infants.

Since mothers do more hands-on infant care, it seems only natural that most of the words and “baby talk” babies hear come from their moms, right? Well…yes and no. Research finds that moms still talked to their babies more--even when dads were present. In fact, babies hear three times more words from mom than from dad.

Early Language Exposure from Dads Linked to Future Success

We already know how incredibly important talking to babies is for their language development. Both intelligence and academic success are strongly linked to the number of words a small child hears. For children, having an involved father increases the likelihood that they will experience positive education, health, self-esteem, and social outcomes.

Compare the data with your own experience

  • Adults responded to about a quarter of an infant’s vocalizations
  • More than 70 percent of these responses came from mothers alone; 18 to 23 percent from both parents, and 6 to 12 percent from fathers alone
  • Mothers responded to a little coo or cry immediately; dads took a little time.
  • Infants responded more to their mother’s voices compared to their father’s
  • Mothers responded more often to girls than boys; dads more to boys. But in either case, the difference was not significant, according to the researchers.

Pick up the Conversation!

The research provides a window into babies’ language environments and sends a clear message to dads: You are very important in your infant’s developing language skills. And it doesn’t take a parenting class to learn to talk to your baby. Just do it!

author name

Jennifer S. Ammons, MD

Jennifer S. Ammons, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician with Roseville Pediatrics. Dr. Ammons is a graduate of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and completed her residency at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Her special areas of interest include child safety, infectious diseases, and immunizations.

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