If you've ever felt silly cooing at an infant, you'll be glad to know that your "coochy-coos" might be way more important and complex than you think.
Baby talk, or "motherese," is a universal language that we use to talk to babies — and no matter what your native tongue is, your voice will change to speak this language.
For a recent study, published in the journal Current Biology, researchers followed 24 mothers for one year and recorded them as they talked to their babies. The mothers spoke to their children in different languages, including English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Hebrew. Researchers also interviewed the moms about their babies' daily routines, in order to get a sense of the way they spoke to adults as well.
"We’ve known for a long time that adults change the way they speak when they are addressing babies,” Jenny Saffran, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who was not involved in this research, said in a statement. "They speak more slowly, use shorter sentences, talk at a higher pitch and swoop their pitch up and down more often than when they are speaking to other adults."
What's different about this study, however, is that it found that the timbre of adults' voices changed consistently across 10 different languages when talking to babies.
"We found that mothers alter this basic quality of their voices when speaking to infants, and they do so in a highly consistent way across many diverse languages," Elise Piazza, study author, said in a statement.
The researchers found that baby-talk is its own universal language — or at least a universal sound — one that remained similar whether a mother spoke English or Mandarin. While more research needs to be done, with a larger sample size of moms, Piazza told The Guardian that it's further proof that baby talk is "not something to be embarrassed about at all."
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about or passing on kids, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.
Read these stories next: