Q: My baby is turning 1 this month. Should she be talking by now?
A: Not necessarily. Infants and children grow and develop on their own, individual timelines. This means that they reach major milestones like talking through gradual progress from a series of smaller achievements.
Speech development in infants starts right after they are born. The soothing voices they hear during diaper changes and feedings, for example, teach conversation basics such as, “I cry, and someone responds." Then there's that magical first time they look into your eyes and coo and smile, usually at around 2 months of age. These moments usually get an immediate and adoring response from parents and cement verbal and nonverbal skills such as voice tone, turn-taking, noise imitation and verbal speed.
Between 4 and 7 months, babies start making repetitive sounds like “bah" or “dah." Their constant babbling allows them to experiment with different volumes and pitches. It also helps them fine-tune the message they want to communicate to others.
At around 6 or 7 months, babies start to mimic simple words like “mama," “dada," “doggie," and “go." Responding, repeating, and adding sounds and words through face-to-face interaction, conversation and reading boosts further speech development.
When they are about 8-12 months old, babies start to attach meaning to gestures, words and phrases they see and hear every day. They may begin to link words to actions when they hear simple sentences such as “Let's take a bath,” or “Let's get in the car seat.” At this age, babies are like sponges. They absorb every smile, frown and conversation as they start to comprehend and interact with the world around them. And they practice communicating back with gibberish, high-pitched screams, laughs, single words and gestures.
Although it may be as much as a year or more before you can interpret any of her babbling, your baby can understand many of your words well before her first birthday. And, before she can say many, if any, words, she’s probably comprehending more than you suspect.
Around the time they reach their first birthday, babies babble using different sounds. They may say one or two simple words like “mama, “dada" or “bye-bye," recognize their name and people they see every day, and understand simple sentences like, “Where is daddy?"
Don't hesitate to share with your pediatrician any concerns you may have, such as if your baby:
– doesn't respond to your voice or loud noises