Raising A Bilingual Baby

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I grew up speaking four different languages and I understood atleast six languages in India. Everybody in my country is pretty much multilingual. You learn English in school, Hindi is our national language spoken quite widely by people, Marathi is our state language again spoken by the people of the state and taught in school very extensively and then if you happen to have a different mother tongue which I did, Bengali, you would learn that from errmm your mother!

So you see why it is so important for me that my child is atleast bilingual. I failed at it with Reuben and Irene. That is because they were proficient in Korean and I was not. I was trying to teach them English when they came to England because that was a priority at the time. And by the time I realised that it would be nice if they could speak my language, they were quite a bit older and I was relatively younger and unprepared for the challenge.

With baby Ro, I had nine whole months to decide and prepare myself for the challenge ahead. You see in India it is easy to pick up languages because you hear all these languages around you all the time but here English is so widely spoken and you yourself are so used to speaking in English that when you have to speak to somebody who is not capable of reciprocating in the same language as you, it is difficult to even talk in your own language, let alone speak with the intention of teaching it to somebody else.

However, I have chosen to teach my baby my mother tongue, and I have no idea whether he will eventually learn my language or not, that fear will live with me until he can speak properly in both English and my mother tongue, Bengali.

At present, Roshan understands a lot of what I say and sometimes will respond more to words spoken in Bengali than in English but at 14 months whatever he says is nothing more than babbles and sometimes plain gibberish. He calls his father “baba” and then refers to our dog Rustle as “Bubba”. Now we can differentiate what he means because we put his gibberish into context but how much of it is language is a mystery.

I have read no books and have no friends in a similar situation as mine who could inspire me. I am doing everything by instinct and trial and error. It is definitely a challenge but we are plodding along slowly. Here are some of the ways in which I try to teach my baby to be bilingual:

One Parent, One language

I try and speak to Roshan in Bengali. The idea is that one parent speaks to the baby in one language exclusively. Slowly the child associate that parent with the language and starts engaging in the language he associates that parent with.

For me , exclusivity is difficult because of my other two children. When there is nobody home, I speak to Roshan in Bengali but when the kids or Ed is home, I am speaking in English majority of the time and end up communicating with Roshan in English.

One thing I have started doing though is, as soon as I speak to Roshan in English, I then very quickly translate it into bengali in the hope that he picks up the language.

Reading books

This one is my favourite and quite difficult. Ideally, I’d buy books in bengali for Roshan but it is very difficult to get hold of in the UK. So I try to translate any book that we have into bengali for him.

Singing songs

I sing a lot to Roshan. And eventhough I don’t know a lot of bengali songs myself, I sometimes make up songs in my language. We have a bathtime song, poo-time song and even nappy change song. Words keep changing because, well I make it as I go along.

Skyping family

I skype my mother, practically everyday. My mother lives in a joint family and everybody tries to come and speak to Roshan. Everybody speaks to him in Bengali. I try to create a sense of community for my baby in those 20 minutes of skype time.

Watching films and listening to music

We don’t watch a lot of tv but every now and again I try and put on music videos that are in bengali. Roshan enjoys hindi songs more though.

I also try and put on bengali songs for him whilst we are playing, eating or just lounging. Again, Roshan prefers his dad’s hip hop more!

Selective Response

Roshan is too young for this. But the idea is when he can start talking, I am going to insist that he speaks to me in bengali if he wants to get a response. Initially I will translate his request into bengali and ask him to repeat it just how we teach our children to say “please’ and “thank you”. In time, he will develop an association and understand that if he wants mummy’s attention he needs to speak in bengali.

I think this one might seem a bit brutal but is essential because baby will try to avoid speaking in the language he finds hard to come up with words in. In order to encourage him this method will come handy.

Translate and repeat

As mentioned above, as a parent you might have to translate and make them repeat. Children are going to find it very hard to learn a language that they are not listening to around them. It will be especially difficult to find certain words and they’d be tempted to use the words in a language that they are used to listening to more. In order to help them find words more easily this method will be helpful.

I already do it with Roshan. I ask him to repeat words and phrases after me and eventhough he can’t quite speak the words he has mastered the art of mimicking the tone of the words or phrases, which I think is a step forward already.

Patience & Persevere

Please be patient. I have no experience but I think as a parent if I persevere, baby Ro will activate his subconscious and learn the language eventually.

There might be a phase where baby Ro might only reciprocate in English and that might be an excuse for me to stop speaking to him in Bengali. But if I persevere and carry on speaking to him in Bengali he might get over his phase and start speaking to me in my language.

I have seen some children do that. Some children speak in English in public out of embarrassment to their parents whilst the parents still carry o Hunn speaking in some native language. Same children, go home and speak very eloquently in their mother tongue.  

Have you raised a bilingual child? Do you have any tips for me?

 

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Why We Chose Cloth Nappies?

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There are many good reasons why people choose to cloth nappy their babies. Ours was essentially environmental (also, I am a sucker for cute prints).

We, as a family try to be as conscious as possible when it comes to the environment and we try to incorporate a lot of cruelty free products into our lifestyle.

Infact, the very first thing I brought for the baby was a big stash of cloth nappies. I do not like the idea of something synthetic and plastic against my babies skin. So when I knew I had an option to cloth nappy my baby, it was a no brainer that I would go that route.

When I tell people that I cloth nappy my baby, I get a lot of questions. I will try and answer as many queries as I can think of, some queries were received by people and some made up by me to make sure we cover all the basis when it comes to cloth nappy-ing.

1.  Isn’t it a lot of work, washing and drying them?

Yes it is!

Unfortunately, we have ignored the eco-system for so long that, to be honest, we cannot afford the luxury of ignoring it anymore. In order to save our planet, we will have to go that extra mile. 

Honestly, it only seems like extra work because we live in a quick fix culture. Once you get a hang of things, you start incorporating the nappy wash into your routine and before you know it, it becomes less of a hassle. 

The rewards of not using plastic based nappies to the eco-system and our babies skin is so huge that the time consumption involved in cloth nappy washing seems miniscule. 

Aren’t cloth nappies expensive?

No. My baby is 12 months old and I might have spent a total of about £250 – £300 on nappies. Now it seems a lot at first but honestly it is not even a tenth of money you would  be spending if you were using disposables.

Also, these nappies only get more absorbent with use and last for a long time which means you could potentially use it for your next baby (s).

They also hold their resell value. After selling, if you tally your money, you would have spent much less than your initial investment. 

Won’t babies feel wet? 

Yes and No. 

Most cloth nappies have a top layer of microbire which prevents babies from feeling extremely wet and protects the skin from extreme dampness.

It does feel wetter than disposables if left unchanged for a long time. But it is this damp feeling that helps toddlers potty train themselves early. Babies in disposables are much harder to potty train because it keeps them dry and comfortable for so long.

How often do you change nappies?

You don’t have to change nappies as often when they are babies unless ofcourse they are heavy wetters. But as they grow older, you need to change them ever 2-3 hours just like disposables. 

How do you clean poo-ey nappy? Isn’t that gross?

Yes, they are vile!

But when they are a newborn and are exclusively fed on milk, their poo is water soluble, so they can go in the same wash as the pee nappies. 

When they get older and start solids, that’s when things get dirty and muckier. In my experience, the easiest thing to do is to put a biodegradable nappy liner that catches all the poo. They can be disposed off easily. If you do catch some poo in the nappy, the microbire is such that you can, in most cases simply flick it in the toilet and the poo comes off, if not a bit of jet spray and job done!

How to get rid of stains?

Sun them out or let it rain! After you have washed the nappies just dry them outdoors, the sun has magical powers. Even on a grey day, it usually works. I sometimes let it get rained on and then leave them to dry as the weather settles a bit. I haven’t had to try anything else. 

Be careful what detergent you use. No liquids or bio detergents. Also, stay away from stain removers. They totally ruin the shelf life of your nappies.

Don’t they take ages to dry?

Cloth nappies come in different materials. Microbires and cotton for example don’t take very long to dry but bamboo takes longer to dry. 

They recommend not to tumble dry your nappies but if you are in a cold country like I am, I would recommend investing in an electric air-dryer. I brought mine for £30, second hand. My nappies dry overnight and it is a handy investment which you can resell easily, especially to someone who is cloth nappying.

It doesn’t sound travel friendly, does it?

It is a matter of perspective.

Cloth nappies consume some space plus they take some time to dry. You have to carry atleast two days worth of nappies which can be anything from 12 to 15 nappies.

When we travel for day trips or to a friends house, we don’t bother with cloth nappies. But if we are visiting family and they don’t mind us using their washing machine to wash dirty nappies, we carry cloth nappies. 

Handy tip: I always leave a few clean nappies home, for them to be ready to use when we arrive back just incase what I bring back is dirty and wet. 

What kind of nappies do you use?

There are so many choices but we use two types. We use all in ones and two parter. 

In two parters, you have the minky nappy and then a leakproof cover. An all – in – one is exactly what it says. It is like putting a disposable on. No cover involved. 

All in ones are less bulky and but also comparatively less absorbent. Hence, they are perfect for day time wear, easy to pack in your nappy bag and quick to change.

Whereas, a two parter is a tad bulkier but has a brilliant absorbency. They are perfect for night time wear. But I use two parter even in the day time. They are my favourite as I have a super heavy wetter.

Did you use them right from birth?

No. But that is only because my baby was very tiny at birth. He was a mere 2.5 kgs baby. Most newborn nappies fit babies that are 6 oz or 7 oz and up. There are cloth nappies for tiny babies but I knew that my baby will outgrow them as soon as my milk was established and he started gaining weight. 

Will my baby get a nappy rash?

Well unlike disposables, cloth nappies are notorious for wasting your money, that is if you have invested on an expensive nappy rash cream (not all rash cream are cloth nappy friendly by the way).

In all honesty, my baby has been wearing cloth nappies since he was 6 weeks old and I have never had any problems because unlike disposables there are no chemicals in the nappies. Having said that babies do get rashes especially if they aren’t changed often enough or due to some irritants like a new detergent or the material of the nappy even.

The only time I saw a sore bum was when he was teething. I use two things on such ocassions coconut oil or weleda nappy rash cream. Both are cloth nappy friendly and very good for rashes. But there are plenty of options out there.

How many nappies do you need?

In my opinion, 20 is a good starting point. 

I personally brought a pack of 20 nappies. Realistically, you will need about 6 to 8 changes a day.  Because my entire stash of 20 was a two parter, I then invested in another 10 all in ones. And that is personally more than enough, especially if you plan to do a wash every other day. If you plan to wash in longer intervals you will need more. 

I hope I have answered most of the common queries people may have about cloth nappies. There is honestly nothing negative to say about them, when what they do to this earth is so rewarding.

Let’s not contribute to that landfill and let our planet breathe.

……to a better and a cleaner future. Cheers!