Can Chronic Cellphone Use Hinder your Infant’s Development?


Can Chronic Cellphone Use Hinder your Infant’s Development?

By Meghan Ryan

The two most important communicative mechanisms a newborn innately has to navigate his world are eye gaze and crying. From birth, newborns are constantly developing speech, language and communication skills with every response they command from their caregiver. As early as 5 days old, an infant can tailor his cries to reflect hunger, wetness, or discomfort as well as differentiate between mother and caregiver. Additionally, very early on newborns and infants develop prelinguistic skills: eye gaze (signaling a cue for communication) and joint attention – the ability of an infant to rest his or her gaze on a object at the same time the caregiver is looking at the same object. It is speculated that eye gaze between baby and mother is one of the most important prelinguistic skills to occur before verbal communication develops.

However, excessive cell phone usage can work to hinder the communicative rhythm and bonding experience that new mothers and infants work to establish, especially within the first six months. Communicative cues can be easily missed and trying to decode differences in newborn cries (hunger vs wet diaper) can become very difficult. As it is so important for new mothers to pay attention to different cries, constant distraction from a cell phone can alter the way the other perceives the cry, thus making it more difficult to decode. Infants are so intuitive early on, that even the slightest delay in response to a coo or a cry can alter the way they perceive their world. Additionally, if a mother is perusing high-emotion content that is so pertinent in Facebook and social media, the overflow of emotion may inadequately color her response to the infant.

Breastfeeding can also be affected by a constant need to search the web or pursue Facebook, taking away from a significant bonding period for mother and baby, according to Erin Odom, author of “The Humbled Homemaker” blog. Physically, the mother may be present but mentally they are “somewhere else”.

Many mothers use the cellphone to pass the time during the long nursing/feeding sessions of early infancy. However, infants are highly communicative during feeding, and texting and social media, when so engrossing, can distract a mother from the needs of the infant.

Chronic cell phone usage such as texting and social media usage could absolutely hinder infant development as a result of missed cues on the part of the mother. The early months of a newborn who continuously has to wait for mother while looking at the cellphone before responding, to cry initiation for communication or other cues, the brain’s connections will actually reorganize around this delay, later dampening the development of instinctual communication between mother and infant.

Additionally, chronic cell phone usage can mean maternal distraction from infant needs, allowing the mother to tune-out and miss potential cues into what their newborn baby needs. As a result the confidence of new moms in their own ability to respond to their infant’s communicative gestures can also be affected.

It is best to put the cellphone aside when engaging in otherwise nurturing activities with new babies so that communicative and prelinguistic cues are attended to and understood. If chronic texting/social media occurs, it is best to remove media from the interaction between mom and baby.

About Meghan Ryan, MS CCC-SLP, CHHC

Meghan is a practicing speech-language pathologist and certified holistic health coach. She is the owner of Smart Speech Inc., a home-based speech therapy consultation service that is available throughout NY. She is also the co-founder of The 360 Parenting Group, a holistic parent coaching service for families of children with special needs. Some of her services include traditional speech language therapy available throughout Westchester County, NY, remote consultation and a unique focus on precautionary practices and parent/caregiver education. For more information, or to schedule a free 30-minute consultation, please visit or contact [email protected]


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