When you can expect to hear your baby's first words and how you can encourage speech development in your baby or toddler.
Hearing your baby call 'Mama' or 'Dada' for the first time is an incredibly emotional experience, but when will they utter these first words and will they understand what they're saying?
Learning the lingo
Your baby starts communicating with you as soon as she's born and within weeks of her arrival you'll have learnt what her cries mean, knowing whether she's hungry, tired or just needs a hug.
By about 3 months she'll start communicating with you more directly, focusing her attention on you as you speak and starting to 'chatter' in reply. Over the next couple of months she'll keep practicing 'speech', making lots of different sounds as she learns to coordinate her lips, palette and vocal chords in different combinations.
At around 4-6 months she'll start to combine vowel sounds with consonants and it's around this time she'll speak her first 'mama' or 'dada'. However, while this can be exiting to hear she won't actually understand what she's saying for another few months and is likely to combine these with other 'words' like 'gaga' and 'papa' too.
Over the next few months she'll start to build on these sounds and her babble will start to sound more speech like as she begins to use intonation in her chatter. When she's about 7 months old she may understand when you call her name as she begins to associate words with objects.
The long awaited first word
It's likely she'll utter her first proper word around her first birthday and this is a great way to mark the occasion. As by this time she'll have gained enough control of her vocal chords and lips to form words intentionally. First words are usually simple names or easy to ssay objects, and cat, dog, Ma or Da are likely to be among the first your baby picks up.
Over the next 6 months she'll start to add more and more words to her vocabulary and will mix these in with her baby chatter. She'll also begin to understand basic instructions like 'come here'.
It's around 2 years of age that you'll start to notice her start to form basic 2 word sentences and she'll build on this over the next 12 months the as she learns more words and starts to understand how to use basic grammar. Somewhere between 3 and 4 years she'll start to talk in 3 and 4 words sentences and from here the only way is up as she'll soon be able to have 'proper' conversations.
Why is my baby not talking yet?
Hard is it may be, try not to compare your baby's speech development to that of any other child as all infants progress at their own rate, with boys often developing their language skills up to 2 months after girls. As long as your baby shows an interest in your speech or singing, babbles along and communicates with you by other means you shouldn't have any reason to be concerned if she's a late speaker. However, as with anything if you think there may be a problem, it's a good idea to speak to your doctor if only to put your mind at rest.
What can I do to help?
The best way to help your baby learn to talk is to lead by example. Talking, singing and reading to your baby as much as possible will help her get used to the sounds of speech and understand how use them to communicate.
Has your baby spoken their first word yet or are you still waiting? Whether you have any questions or would like to share your experiences about this or anything else then why not visit the AskBaby forums where you can chat to other members.