Speech & Language Development: The First Year

baby talking

From the moment your child is born, she is learning how to communicate with you. In fact, her ears are developed enough to begin hearing and listening as early as the fourth month of pregnancy. As a new mother or even an experienced mother, you may have questions about your child's speech and language development.

Speech & Language: Birth to 3 Months

Crying is your baby's first and only way of communicating with you during the early weeks of life. She will cry to let you know she is hungry. She will cry to let you know her diaper is wet. She will cry to let you know she is unhappy. As she continues to develop, she will begin to coo and she may be able to make out vowel sounds such as "ah", "eh," and "uh".

Although your baby cannot talk or even really babble yet, her language skills are forming. She is listening and learning about her environment. She should startle if she hears a loud noise and turn her head towards her mother's voice.

You can help promote her speech and language development by singing to her or reading to her. Talk to your baby often and expose her to a variety of sounds and music.

mom singing to baby

Speech & Language: 4 to 6 Months

Between four and six months, your child's speech and language begin to blossom. What started out as simple cooing turns into full fledge babbling. She should be able to make single syllable consonants sounds including n, k, g, p, and b. The infamous ga-gas and goo-goos may be heard now. She will laugh and smile and, of course, still cry to communicate with you.

You can encourage her language by playing with her often. Use her name when you speak to her. Repeat sounds when she says them to you and encourage her to repeat them back. Baby rattles are appropriate toys at this age.

Speech & Language: 7 to 9 Months

Your baby's babbling will continue and progress to sound more like real talking. She will make two syllable sounds such as mama and dada. Although these sound a lot like words, she likely has not associated them yet with a person or thing. She will continue babbling, learning more and more new sounds during this period. She is beginning to understand more too. She can understand simple commands such as no-no. She likely has a collection of words she understands now.

You can encourage your child's language development through play. Singing songs such as "Head and Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" or playing games like "Where's your belly?", "Where's your nose?", "Where's your toes?" is a great way to expand your child's language.

mom lifting baby in the air

Speech & Language: 10-12 Months

Between ten and twelve months, you may hear your child's first word. By a year most children can say 3-5 words. Besides beginning to talk, your child's comprehension of the spoken language begins to flourish. She may shake her head no, wave bye-bye, and follow simple directions.

Activities you can do to encourage her to talk include continuing to read stories and nursery rhymes and playing games such as peek-a-boo. Learning animal sounds can encourage even the reluctant talker.

Not talking by a year is not usually an indicator of a problem unless there are other signs of delays. Consult your doctor if you are concerned about her language and speech development.