parent-baby communication

Baby Communication Week Day 4

14 – 21st June

Lockdown hit new mums hard. Wonderful Nurturing Baby Massage and Yoga teachers stepped in to fill the void of live classes by serving their families well with livestream sessions. In virtual space we enjoyed the ease of the Zoom Casual while welcoming the family dog, adventurous siblings and the occasionally random appearance of a partially-clothed unexpected family member. Despite challenges, we could ‘support the parent-baby relationship by revealing the fascinating uniqueness of a baby’ (1). One teacher reported how she relished in overseeing the subtle game of conversational ‘serve and return’ when a mother responded to her baby’s communication. We can share these miraculous moments through practices developed thanks to the pioneering work of Dr T Berry Brazelton, in particular knowledge, skills and confidence gained from the Newborn Behavioural Observation tool (1).

When lockdown eased my youngest daughter and I celebrated by scootering leisurely through our local riverside gardens in the balmy sunshine. On a neatly laid blanket overseen by a motionless lakeside heron, a lovely new mum connecting with her young baby shouted out, “Marion!” It took a moment to recognise Terri and son Lennon. Connecting with our families online suffers from virtual distancing, a sensory dissonance unavoidable in the world of Zoom. I slammed on the brakes, because I can’t resist a baby! Terri immediately spoke of the beneficial effects during lockdown of our online BabyYogaMassage sessions and relayed to me how a story I’d told her had left its mark:-

A father posted about the joyous sound of a crying baby. Being neglected in an orphanage, his adopted baby daughter sadly had learned that no one listened to her cues, so naturally her communication cues withered, and she never even cried, that is until her new loving family made effective efforts to connect with her. As her adoptive parents diligently responded to her subtle cues, the magical seeds of connection unfurled.

As I watched Terri and Lennon connect in their cosy nest by the heat shimmering water, Lennon’s tongue poked out, not in a typical withdrawing cue, but his clever cluster of communicative cues demonstrated that he was talking to his mum. We sat smiling and actively listening with glee to Lennon’s riveting story, smartly told through his facial gestures, his physical movements, his soft babblings, and the polyvagal bonding spark of heartfelt connection.

baby commuication
The miracle of the mother-baby connection,
Alena responds and develops baby’s communication skills (4)

Dr T Berry Brazelton’s teachings are the cornerstone for our Birthlight parent-baby practices. For example, our integrative approach, which is still quite new, is built on the foundations of the Six States of Consciousness (2). This fundamental yet profound framework for recognising a baby’s state of being underpins the use of Still Positive Touch to connect, and subsequent responses to a baby’s communicative cues. Dr T Berry Brazelton’s lifelong work allows us to successfully draw on the optimum opportunities to use the rhythm of communication through dialogue, poems, nursery rhymes, song, sounds breathings and touch with movement. These techniques shared at the appropriate stage of baby’s development, allow us to discover a mutual rhythmic dance of connection.

Laura and Noah communicate through play.

‘The experience of movement combined with touch is probably

the richest stimulation we can offer babies from birth.’ (5)

Within this connective space a cocktail of hormones surge through the parent-baby pair to create a joyful symbiosis, and in the background, hidden in the myriad of baby’s neurons, this playful connection allows the release of neurotransmitters to produce gazillions of connections in baby’s brain and beyond.

In short, responding to your baby’s communication as a parent is the essence which allows your baby to grow their brain – physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially. 

All the theory in the world doesn’t matter a jot for a family in a pandemic, what matters is that communicative play is the best way for the pair to nurture their relationship, health and well-being by engaging in the delight of mutual connection. The work of Dr T Berry Brazelton has provided baby with a ‘voice’ to enable and enhance this wonderful connection.

Marion O’Connor

Birthlight Tutor

Marion became Birthlight’s first Baby Yoga tutor over 20 years ago, following a career as a Japanese stockbroker. Passionate about the subtle power of yoga, Read more

  2. Brazelton, T., 1976. Neonatal Behavioural Assessment Scale. Philadelphia: Lippincott.
  3. Juhan, D., 2015. Job’s Body. New York: Barrytown/Station Hill Press, Inc. (1987: p35)
  4. BINBY – Birthlight Integrated Nurturing Baby Massage and Baby Yoga Training Manual 2020
  5. Barbira Freedman, F., 2010. Yoga for Mother and Baby. London: Cico.

Brazelton UK is sponsoring Baby Communication Awareness Week, 14 – 21st June 2021. Baby Communication Week is a great way to put supporting Infant Mental Health into practice. It’s about understanding a baby’s experience of the world and how they communicate their preferences in order that we can give the best sensitive and responsive care.