What You Say Matters

All babies cry—some more than others—and it can be distressing for new parents.

Meeting your baby’s needs isn’t always easy, especially when you’re not sure what’s wrong. In these moments, you may find yourself responding to your baby with frustration or anger: “Are you hungry? Are you cold? What’s wrong with you???”

But the words you use to communicate with your child matter, and shape the way you and your baby bond. Choosing, in difficult moments, to use positive language that soothes both you and baby go a long way in building a healthy relationship between you and your child.

Respond with Concern Rather than Frustration

Imagine your baby is crying and you say: “What’s wrong with you? Nothing I do is ever good enough!” Consider the effect these words could have on your baby—especially when repeated over-and-over again. How would you feel if someone said this to you? Would it help you feel calm?

As a loving parent, pay attention to how you use words and get into positive communication habits that help you and your baby feel good. You could say things like, “I am sorry you are sad. I wish I knew what was wrong.” In this conversation, you are viewing your baby’s upsets as normal. It’s a message that soothes both you and your baby.

A message like, “I am so sorry your tummy hurts,” says “it’s the gas that’s the problem, not you.” You could try rubbing your baby’s belly and saying, “Is that better?” This message says, “I care about you.” If your baby is crying because they are cold, you could say, “Let’s wrap up in another blanket and get you warm.” This message says, “I’m trying to make you feel better.”

Even when you’re not sure what is upsetting your baby, you can always hold them, rub their back, and say, “I know, I know.” In this moment, you are sending the message that “I’m on your side.”

Your words are like magic in helping your baby cope with difficult situations and these caring words and actions will help you feel better too. Best of all, caring words and caring actions help your baby feel confident that the world is a safe and nurturing place. And that confidence leads to healthy development.


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