From the moment you hold your baby in your arms you begin to think about all of their firsts; their first cry, first smile, and first words. You quickly find out just how vocal your little one can be before they every utter their first words. So just how long is it before babies start talking? We’ll go over this and how to encourage your little one to begin expressing themselves without the waterworks.
Baby’s First Words
Your baby will coo many sounds as they learn to pick up what they hear before they form actual words. Those cute little babbles are all part of their oral development towards saying their first words. Often times you will see two babies that appear to be ‘talking’ to each other and parents always wonder ‘what are they saying?’ This baby talk between babies appears to be universal, but it could be more than just random sounds they are making.
Typically around 6-9 months babies will begin to babble consonant sounds and multiple syllables that may sound like words such as ‘da-da’. Most parents chart this as baby’s first words. Sometimes, those babbles may even sound like whole phrases like ‘I love you’. However, these are merely part of baby babbles they imitate from what they hear. Your baby’s first real word won’t come until they reach 12 months. By their first birthday your baby will start to say words with real meaning and understand simple demands. In fact, they can understand far more words than what they are capable of saying.
After your baby’s first year they will continue to pick up sounds and words they hear and try to imitate them. By your baby’s 2nd birthday they will be able to express simple demands or wants in two or four-word sentences as well as communicate hello and bye-bye. They will also use non-verbal cues such as pointing or waving.
Some babies, especially preemies, don’t start talking until later. You play a major part in your baby’s development. The more you talk and sing to your little one, the sooner they will begin to pick up sounds and words. Believe it or not, that annoying baby talk that parents use when they speak to their little ones actually aid in their speech development as babies often prefer higher pitches. Just use clear words so they are learning how they are supposed to be pronounced.
Speech Development Concerns
It’s true that some babies are not as vocal as others; however they should be able to speak at least 10 words by 18 months. A delay in speech development could indicate a more serious problem and needs to be discussed with your child’s pediatrician to determine if further evaluation is needed. Here are some indications that there may be a delay in your child’s speech development.
- Doesn’t respond to sounds, their name, or coos/babbles by 6 months
- Doesn’t speak any words at all by 12 months
- Has made no attempt to communicate such as pointing and babbling by 18 months
- You see no speech improvements or an expansion of vocabulary other than a few single words by 24 months
Encourage Your Baby
Babies start talking by watching and listening. It’s never too early to begin talking to your baby and the more you do the quicker they’ll pick things up. Interacting with your child socially promotes their development in other ways besides just speech. Babies love the sound of voices, especially mom’s because it’s the voice they heard while in-utero. Whether you’re playing with them by identifying their toys or singing them a lullaby to sleep, you are an important factor in teaching them how to talk.
Read to Your Baby - babies love looking at bright colored pictures in books. Reading to your baby helps them to identify and recognize what they’re seeing. The longer you read to your child the more you are helping with their speech development and expanding their vocabulary while instilling an interest in books.
Speak Out Your Actions - While you’re cooking or folding clothes speak to your baby about what you’re doing. Children’s brains are like sponges that absorb everything. They are constantly learning from you so minimize background noise, such as the TV, when talking to your baby so they can focus on what you are saying.
Imitate Your Baby – when your baby is babbling at you, babble back the same sounds. Responding to your baby shows them that you are listening which encourages them to speak more.
Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have about your baby’s development with their pediatrician. If there is an underlying condition the sooner it can addressed to better chance your child has. Praise your baby when they make their first attempts at communication and do not be discouraged.