When Do Babies Start Talking?
At birth! Let's explore Baby's speech and language development from birth to 12 months.
Birth to 3 Months
During the first few weeks of Baby’s life, the two of you are getting to know each other.
When your baby cries, she changes her vocal volume and pitch to communicate her needs. You learn to recognize that your baby is hungry, uncomfortable, wet, tired, or content by interpreting the difference between her cries.
From birth to about 3 months, your baby may be heard repeating vowel-like sounds. This is known as “cooing” and is the beginning of her “vocal play.” Vocal play eventually turns into the use of speech sounds. Research indicates that a baby is born with the ability to learn and use any language. Of course, your baby will only understand and use the language(s) that she hears the most.
Speech and Smiling
By 3 months, your baby may start to smile. After such a positive connection, you will interact with your baby more by using words and facial expressions to encourage another smile. She may respond to your interactions by smiling and making sounds. You should follow your instincts and repeat these sounds to begin the process of language modeling.
“As your baby begins to coo, imitate him,” recommends Sharon Frank, a speech-language pathologist. “This will tell your baby that you’re listening to him, and it will also encourage him to make the sounds.” Also at this age, a variety of vocal intonation patterns are used, and your baby learns to interpret the inflection and tone of your voice. She is recognizing the differences between when you ask a question or make a statement.
What can you do to encourage speech skills? “In this stage, babies tune in to the parent’s touch, facial expressions, and vocalizations more than the parent’s words,” says Frank. “Focus on exaggerating your facial expressions and changing vocal pitch when talking with your baby.”
4 to 6 months
At around 4 months, your baby will start to respond to “no.” He is now able to look around for the source of new sounds and will attend to music. Between 4 and 6 months, babbling begins. Babbling is when your baby uses more speech-like consonant and vowel sounds including “p,” “b,” and “m.” Your baby can babble when he is alone or when he is playing with you.
Follow Their Lead
“Imitate any babbling or words your baby is saying,” says Frank. “As your baby points to things, name the objects. Start to point to things for and with him and label them (‘bed, dog, Daddy’). Additionally, try to speak in one- to three-word phrases (i.e. ‘Mommy go bye-bye,’ ‘more milk’).”
Equally important is gesture development, because it leads to good language development. A baby begins communicating his wants and needs by gesturing (reaching out, pointing, etc.) around 6 months of age. Research indicates that babies can learn sign language to communicate with their parents before they even speak a single word!
How Can Parent’s Help?
“Help him start to realize cause-effect relationships (shaking a rattle) and object permanence (playing peek-a-boo),” says Frank. “These early cognitive skills are important for speech and language development.”
7 to 12 months
During months 7 to 12, your baby starts to recognize his name and common words like “cup.” Also, his babbling has developed to include long and short groups of sounds. Although the words may not be clear, if your baby consistently uses the same sounds to indicate an object or desire, then it can be considered a “true word.”
One- and Two-Word Sentences
By 12 months, most babies have formed their babbles into one or two words like “dada, bye-bye,” or even “mama!” It’s hard to believe that in 12 short months, a baby starts to develop the ability to communicate with the world. From his first startle response to speaking his first words, speech and language skills develop rapidly. It’s not surprising that research on brain development shows rapid growth occurring from birth to 3 years of age.
Building Language Skills
Continue to foster great speech skills by talking to your baby often. “Use the most of your immediate and surrounding environment to enhance your baby’s speech, by going for walks and pointing out the different things you see (‘dog, house, car, birds flying, mailman’),” says Frank. “Do the same with things inside the house, at the grocery store, at the park, etc.”
Developmental milestones are used as a guide to know what children typically do at certain ages. However, for this age group, you should be concerned if: 1) Your baby does not startle or respond to sounds. 2) By 3 months, your baby does not turn toward the source of sound or your voice. 3) By 8 months, your baby does not babble, imitate speech sounds, or use his voice to gain your attention.
Have concerns about your baby’s hearing or speech/language? Discuss them with your pediatrician. Identifying potential problems early not only can assist with speech and language development, but also can prevent difficulties in the future with behavior, social interactions, and academics. For more information, contact the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
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