Bilingual is Better

expose your baby to spanish before he's born

This post is sponsored by Huggies Latino.

As a first-time expectant mother the list of things to think about, prepare for, rejoice in and even panic over seems to be endless. It feels like every day not only brings you closer to holding your bebecito in your arms, but also takes you on that magical roller coaster of new emotions.

When my belly started growing with my little girl and I started talking more and more to her, I realized that I also had the additional burden of figuring out if my Mexican-born husband and I should speak to her in our native language of Spanish or in English. En la casa sólo hablamos español, so I knew that it would be very odd for my husband and I to switch to English with our daughter — it just wouldn’t be natural for us. At the same time, we knew English would be the language she’d absorb from her environment no matter what we did, but we still wondered if that would confuse her.

We weren’t alone in our fears that being exposed to multiple languages early on could confuse our baby. We did later find out that our fear was based on misconceptions and lack of knowledge. The scientific fact is that the earlier we start exposing babies to a second language, the more flexible their bilingual brains will be and the more they can identify and separate the sounds of the different languages they are exposed to.

The first window of opportunity to expose babies to multiple languages is during their first year of life (and even starting in the womb!). Babies should be exposed through rich interactions to the two languages at home so their brains can absorb all the sounds and retain them by the time they turn a year old and this window starts to close.

So, as you get ready for your baby’s much-expected arrival by checking out tools like Huggies Respuestas de Mamá and the very useful Guía Bienvenida a tu Bebé, you should also think about the many ways you could expose your child to as many languages as possible. His brain is wired for it, the rest is up to you. I like to say bilingualism is a gift we give our children that no one can take away from them. Plus, if you start immersing them in Spanish right now, they won’t be able to complain or rebel against it — it will just be a natural process.

While raising completely fluent bilingual kids is a commitment and takes a real conscious effort, there are relatively simple ways to kick start the baby’s language exposure even before she’s born.

1. Talk as much as you can. Talking to your baby in the womb and as a newborn is one of the best ways to bond with him. He’s getting used to your loving voice and it gives him comfort. If you or your partner speak Spanish, make sure that you speak it to him a lot. Talk about anything, sing, read, recite a poem — ¡lo que sea! What’s important is that he’s absorbing the sounds of the language and recognizing them from you.

2. It takes a village. Start scoping out your family, friends and community and see who can also provide the necessary language exposure to your child. Abuelas and abuelos that speak Spanish are such a blessing to have. Make sure you make them aware of your wishes and have them become your bilingual accomplices.

3. Stock up on Spanish-language books, toys, music and games. If you’re still being showered with gifts or just starting to plan your registry, make sure you also include some books, music and toys in Spanish to start building your immersive and fun arsenal.

Share: When did you start exposing your child to Spanish or your second language? How did you do it?

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