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By TEIS Early Intervention Staff
Babbling, the Milestone Few Talk About
Before Baby’s First Words Comes Babble
For baby, communication starts with crying, that all purpose attention getter that can wake you up in the wee hours and keep you on your toes all day long.
While it may not seem like it at first, your baby is definitely paying attention to what you have to say. You may be focused on soothing your child back to sleep or saying a few words of comfort, but talking with babies helps their brains develop and aids them in learning the basics of language.
Your baby’s verbal skills begin to show up sooner than you think. Within 2 to 3 months, “coos” and “goos” begin to supplement tearful episodes. As early as 4 months, true babbling may begin. This is when baby starts to put his or her lips together and make a few alphabet sounds, like “p,” “b,”, and “m.” You may hear “puh, puh,” or “muh muh.”
What should you do? That’s simple — talk back. Engaging in a conversation, using real words and “adult” language helps your baby take in all the information they will soon need to express themselves to the world.
A Strategy for Babbling
When baby begins to babble, there are a few easy-to-follow suggestions you can use to enhance this opportunity for socialization and language development.
- Get involved in the conversation. Talk back and forth as though each mumble and babble were part of an engaging chat.
- See if there is a logic to the babbling. Perhaps baby is asking for their bottle, pacifier, or favorite toy. Put your thoughts into words. “Oh, is this your rattle? Is this what you want?”
- Talk using natural rhythms, tones, and inflections. Vary your speech with short and longer sentences.
It may not seem like your baby is learning speech and practicing language, but that is exactly what is happening. You may notice that, over a period of weeks to months, random babbling takes on a pattern that has the feel of speech if not its form. Baby’s voice may rise as if asking a question or flow and pause in the rhythm of sentences.
Transitioning to Baby’s First Words
The end of your baby’s first year is generally considered the time to watch for first words. Babbling becomes a bit longer and more complex. Your baby’s facial expressions and body language start to contribute to their attempts at communication.
The most common first words are “mama” and “dadda.”
Between 1 year and 18 months, you’ll find that baby not only begins to form recognizable words, but that they also start to understand what you are saying. “Please don’t throw that,” may be better understood, if not always obeyed.
Warning Signs to Watch For
Children are different and develop their skills at different times. The thing to look for when it comes to speech development is a healthy and happy baby ready to engage with you and with others in babbling, making eye contact, and gesturing for attention.
When weeks to months go by without noticeable progress, or especially if regression occurs, then it’s time to bring your concerns to the attention of your pediatrician or family doctor. There are many resources, including qualified speech pathologists, who can assist in overcoming delays in speech development. Language delays are a common developmental problem, occurring in up to 10% of preschool children.
Do you have questions about babbling and speech development? Call TEIS Early Intervention at 412-271-8347 or Text INFO to 412-543-8398 During Regular Business Hours (8:00 am to 4:00 pm, M-F).
Reference Links for More Information:
Parents.com | When Do Babies Start Talking?
WebMD | Your Baby’s First Words
KidsHealth | Delayed Speech or Language Development