Can babies understand swear words? Mum 'revolted' after husband curses at nine-week-old child

A Mumsnet user was annoyed after her partner swore at their baby. [Photo: Getty]
A Mumsnet user was annoyed after her partner swore at their baby. [Photo: Getty]

A woman has divided parenting website Mumsnet amid claims she is “revolted” after witnessing her husband swearing at their nine-week-old baby.

The mum wrote: “I heard my husband swearing at our nine week old baby because she had a bit of reflux, AIBU [Am I being unreasonable] to be revolted by this?”

Giving context further down in the thread, she explained: “He said to her ‘oh for f* sake (then her name)’ he had only been looking after her for a few minutes and we get plenty of sleep so no exhausted sleep deprived parents here.”

The issue of swearing in front of a very young baby clearly divided users, as the thread has so far garnered 129 responses.

Some responded sympathetically to the mother, with one person sharing their own experience of a swearing co-parent.

Ex was rough with our newborn, and called her the c word. Used to call his son and me and other people (behind their backs) the c word. It’s not right, It’s not OK,” wrote the user.

Another asked for context, saying: “Depends on the context really and whether he was swearing about the situation or swearing AT her.”

However, the majority of respondents on the thread seemed to think the woman was “overreacting”, and suggesting she “cut [her husband] some slack”.

One person said: “Massive over reaction. He didn’t swear at her as such it sounds more like exasperation. Revolted seems a bit much.”

Another added: “Sounds like you need to cut him some slack. Everyone swears at their children at that age. It’s very stressful but hopefully should get better. Be nice to each other.

“Oh gosh yes, you are hugely overreacting. I’ve said worse to mine at that age. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s venting,” read a further comment.

Can babies understand swear words?

While the woman was widely accused of overreacting, it seems like she may have had a point, according to one expert.

Dr Robert Titzer, infant researcher and expert at The Baby Show, says: “While babies don’t generally say their first words until around 12 months of age, they can understand words by five months if parents have been regularly using those words.”

“At nine weeks old, hearing a few instances of swearing likely won’t have an impact.

“But if a parent uses swear words frequently in front of the baby, then the child will learn those words — although there may not be signs that the child recognises the words until their toddler is talking.

“Parents should recognise their babies’ ability to understand language and say words that they are okay with the child learning.”

“Another concern is any anger a parent might have when swearing. If you are angry or upset, it may be better to express these emotions away from your young baby.”

This isn’t the first matter to spark considerable debate on the Mumsnet platform.

Last November, users were divided over whether it is OK to leave your newborn baby while you shower, after a worried new mum put the question to the forum.

Some encouraged the mum to stop worrying and take a shower, while others suggested she take a baby monitor into the bathroom with her, or even bring the baby in in a bouncer.

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