Shortly after we moved to Victoria, a friend asked if she could come over to observe Lily (then about 4 months old) play. She was working on a paper for her university class. Delighted to have a visitor, and always happy to show off my baby, I agreed.
Observing Baby Play
Lily acted shy at first, but slowly began to play as she usually did. I talked about what she liked to do and the toys she liked to play with. Then my friend asked, “How do you know she likes that?”
The question stopped me for a few seconds. How did I know what Lily liked? I began to say that if she wasn’t crying or howling, then I assumed she liked something. If she played in her Exersaucer for ten or twenty or thirty minutes, she must like it. If she smiled at me when I played peek-a-boo, then she liked it.
I realize we tend to associate communication with verbal words. Lily is just learning such communication (she can say “mine,” “no,” “daddy,” “shoes,” “juice,” “out,” “boat,” “down” and more). But communication is more than just spoken words.
Communicating with Baby
Even before Lily learned to put words to her desires, she could communicate. It might be arms wrapped around my knees to indicate she wanted up. Pointing at something to say she wanted to play with it. A tug at my shirt to show she wanted to nurse. Giving me her shoes to say she wanted to go outside (just as Sunshine did at the same age).
Even without words, Lily has been communicating since she was born. In the early days, that was mostly in the form of crying (or lack of it). As I explained to Sunshine one day when Lily was fussy, crying was her way of telling us that she needed something. We just had to learn what it was she needed—food or a hug or a nap.
I like Ingrid Bauer’s teaching about “elimination communication.” This isn’t potty training. It’s based on the idea that baby can communication to mommy that she needed to go pee. I haven’t done this with either of the girls, mostly because it’s easier to put on a diaper than to learn my baby’s pre-verbal cues.
As Lily and Sunshine have grown, it has been fun to see their advances in communication. I still remember the day Lily learned to wave “bye bye” to Daddy (and telling myself that I should try teaching her other baby sign language). Her new word from last weekend was “boat,” as we stayed with my aunt and uncle at their condo on Lake Okanagan and Lily saw the boats going up and down the lake and rode in my uncle’s boat.
Communicating with baby is definitely possible.