When Can A Baby Talk

Learning when your baby first starts communicating is like watching the clouds part — one day there’s nothing and then, boom, it really looks as if he’s just gotten something interesting to say. When can a baby talk? Anywhere between 9 and 14 months. But babies start learning how to speak right after they’re born, mainly by watching and listening to you and other people.

When can a baby talk? For some babies, it’s easy. For others, not so much. It could be as early as 9 months or as late as 14 months – or longer! The more you talk to your baby and read to her, the more she learns. But when a baby starts talking really depends on different things, such as her temperament and your parenting style.

It’s a big milestone when your baby says his or her first word. This is the time to encourage your baby-to-be that it’s okay to say something — anything. From 9 to 14 months, your baby will be able to communicate simple thoughts by pointing, grunting, copying sounds you make and gesturing. Your job: Keep it simple. Babies love to copy everything you do — which means that talking with your baby-to-be is full of simple, fun ways to start communicating.When Can Your Baby Talk? Babies begin learning to speak right after they’re born, but how much they’re able to communicate depends on a lot of different factors. That’s why every baby develops language skills at his own pace—and there’s no way to know exactly when your baby will start talking.

Your baby’s first word may be a bit of an accident: It could be her imitating your voice and figuring out that it makes some noise. Or perhaps she crawls over to your friend and says dada to get his attention. Either way, it’s exciting. “Babies try to figure out early on who they are,” says Polly Tommey, author of 39 Tips for Raising Happy Children.

Before your baby’s first birthday, she’ll have learned a few words by watching you talk and listening to you read aloud. Then (whether or not you throw her a party), start pointing out books and pictures in the house. As she gets older, you can point to simple objects around the house or even flash cards with letters and numbers on them, making sure to say their names out loud and spell the names for her. That way, your baby will learn that reading is fun — and that writing is just another way of talking!

Before your baby’s first birthday, she’ll have learned a few words by watching you talk and listening to you read aloud. Then (whether or not you throw her a party), start pointing out books and pictures in the house. As she gets older, you can point to simple objects around the house or even flash cards with letters and numbers on them, making sure to say their names out loud and spell the names for her. That way, your baby will learn that reading is fun — and that writing is just another way of talking!

When do babies start talking?

Babies start talking — that is, attempt to express themselves in words with meaning — anywhere between 9 and 14 months. But babies start learning how to speak right after they’re born, mainly by watching and listening to you and other people.

Here’s a timeline of how baby’s speech will typically progress:

By the end of month 4

From birth, babies listen to the words and sounds all around them and begin to sort out their meanings, the first step in language acquisition. 

At 4 months, your baby will likely babble or even copy some of the babbling sounds he’s heard you make. His cries may also sound different, depending on whether he’s hungry, tired or in pain.

By the end of month 6

By about 6 months, your baby is picking up on the idea that the jumble of sounds he’s hearing every day include individual words. He may even understand a few of them, such as his name, and the names of other people and familiar objects. He may also make some sounds himself, and may string together a few vowels when he babbles, such as “ah,” “eh” and “oh.” Consonants like “m” and “b” may also appear too.

By the end of month 9

Your baby is starting to experiment with making sounds of his own — including some impressively long ones, like “ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma” and “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba.”

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He may also start to mimic other people’s sounds and gestures, and understand what “no” means (whether he’ll listen is another thing altogether). All of this brings him closer, day by day, to saying his first word.

By the end of month 12

By the time your child is 1 year old, he can likely say at least one word like, “mama,” “dada” or “uh-oh.” He may also try to say the words he hears you say, as well as change the tone of his words — all of which is starting to sound something like real speech! 

When do babies say their first word?

Babies often say their first word around the age of 1, but it can vary from child to child. 

Some perfectly normal babies don’t say a recognizable word until 18 months, whereas some babies begin to communicate in word-sounds (like “ba-ba” for bye-bye, bottle or ball and “da-da” for dog, dad or doll) as early as 7 months.

“Da-da” seems to be slightly easier for babies to say than “ma-ma,” so don’t be surprised if it’s your baby’s first “real” word. Other popular first words include “uh-oh,” “bye-bye” and, around 18 months of age, “no.”0:58Games to Help Baby Develop

How to teach baby to talk

The best way to help your baby say his first words is to talk to him —  a lot! Your baby will be eager to pick up on your verbal cues. 

Narrate your day, describing what you’re doing as you dress your baby, cook dinner or walk down the street. Speak the names of objects and people. Read to your baby, pointing out objects and their names in the pictures he sees.

Ask questions, hold one-sided conversations — and listen if he answers. When he does vocalize, be sure to smile, make eye contact and show him that you’re listening. He’ll be encouraged by your attention — and excited to try again.

More ways to encourage a baby to talk:

  • Speak slowly and clearly, and focus on single words. There’s no need to resort to caveman-speak all the time around your baby, but slowing the pace as you flip through a picture book, or explaining in clear, simple language what you’re doing as you put the book back on the shelf, helps your child understand and focus on individual words. 
  • Use names rather than pronouns. Whenever possible, name the people you’re talking about rather than using the shorthand of a pronoun: “This is Mommy’s coffee” or “Here is Sarah’s bear” are both clearer and easier for babies to understand than “This is my coffee” or “Here is your bear.”
  • Sing songs and rhyme rhymes. Your baby will learn valuable language skills from the simple rhythms and silly repetitions of nursery rhymes and songs.
  • Repetition is your friend. Repetition is your friend. (Get it?) Saying things not once but twice, singing the same songs over and over, pointing out the same flower pot every time you pass it on the street … all that repetition, boring as it may seem to you, is incredibly interesting to your little one, since it helps reinforce your child’s growing understanding of how a particular sound attaches to a particular thing — in other words, what individual words really mean.

What not to worry about

When it comes to speech, the window of what’s considered “normal” is wide open. Your child may start to use sound-words like “mi” for “milk” or “dat” for “that” (as in, “I want that!”) as early as 7 months. Or your child might not start to say words or word-sounds until as late as 18 months. 

Believe it or not, it’s just as appropriate to hear a child’s first words at either end of that age range — or at any age in between. Every child develops at his own pace. 

When to talk to your doctor

If you notice any of the following signs in your baby, it’s a good idea to check in with your pediatrician:

  • Not babbling at 4 to 7 months
  • Only making a few sounds or gestures by 12 months
  • Not saying simple words like “ma-ma” or “da-da” by 12 to 15 months
  • Not understanding simple words like “no” or “stop” by 18 months. 

These can sometimes signal something’s up. Here’s what your pediatrician will look for:

  • Hearing loss or hearing difficulties, which can occur at birth or develop in infancy or toddlerhood. If there’s a family history of hearing loss, tell your pediatrician. Hearing problems can make it difficult for children to learn how to speak. Your pediatrician may be able to treat mild hearing loss that results from, for example, fluid that has accumulated in the inner ear, or can refer you to an ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist).
  • Language delays, which affect about 1 out of 5 children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Sometimes, this delay is only minor, and may resolve itself with a little extra attention from a parent or caregiver. In other cases, children may benefit from working with a speech and language therapist.
  • Autism, a spectrum disorder (also called autism spectrum disorder, or ASD), can result in social or language delays. Let your pediatrician know if your child doesn’t respond to his name by 9 months or if he doesn’t make eye contact when you speak to him.

In general, the earlier a speech delay is detected, the sooner you’ll be able to address it. 

What’s next for baby

Long before he speaks his first words, your baby will learn to understand words, but understanding concepts and directions takes a little longer. 

Sometime around the first birthday, most toddlers can begin following simple commands “like give me that” or “put that down,” but only if they’re issued one step at a time. Your toddler’s vocabulary will likely begin to explode around month 18, and he may string a few words together by age 2.

Every baby develops at his own pace, but if you have any concerns about your child’s development, don’t hesitate to check in with your pediatrician sooner rather than later.

Baby First Words Age

around 12 months. Babies communicate using sounds and gestures. In the first year of life, babies go from babbling to playing with sounds, copying sounds and putting sounds together. First words might start at around 12 months. Babies start understanding and responding to words in the first year of life

From coos to growls to sing-songy combinations of vowels and consonants, your baby’s vocalizing and verbal experimentation may sound just as adorable as it is nonsensical. But listen closely and one day you’ll hear it: the first real word.

By 9 months, your baby will probably start stringing together “ma-ma” and “da-da” sounds without necessarily knowing what they mean. But when those sounds start to transform into words with meaning, it’s a milestone that feels like magic.

When Will You Hear Baby’s First Words?

The first “baby talk” is nonverbal and happens soon after birth. Your baby grimaces, cries, and squirms to express a range of emotions and physical needs, from fear and hunger to frustration and sensory overload. Good parents learn to listen and interpret their baby’s different cries.

Just when your baby will say those magical first words varies greatly from individual baby to individual baby. But if your baby misses any of the following milestones in speech development, talk to your pediatrician or family doctor about your concerns.

Baby Talk Milestones

  • Baby talk at 3 months. At 3 months, your baby listens to your voice, watches your face as you talk, and turns toward other voices, sounds, and music that can be heard around the home. Many infants prefer a woman’s voice over a man’s. Many also prefer voices and music they heard while they were still in the womb. By the end of three months, babies begin “cooing” — a happy, gentle, repetitive, sing-song vocalization.
  • Baby talk at 6 months. At 6 months, your baby begins babbling with different sounds. For example, your baby may say “ba-ba” or “da-da.” By the end of the sixth or seventh month, babies respond to their own names, recognize their native language, and use their tone of voice to tell you they’re happy or upset. Some eager parents interpret a string of “da-da” babbles as their baby’s first words — “daddy!” But babbling at this age is usually still made up of random syllables without real meaning or comprehension.
  • Baby talk at 9 months. After 9 months, babies can understand a few basic words like “no” and “bye-bye.” They also may begin to use a wider range of consonant sounds and tones of voice.
  • Baby talk at 12-18 months. Most babies say a few simple words like “mama” and “dadda” by the end of 12 months — and now know what they’re saying. They respond to — or at least understand, if not obey — your short, one-step requests such as, “Please put that down.”
  • Baby talk at 18 months. Babies at this age say several simple words and can point to people, objects, and body parts you name for them. They repeat words or sounds they hear you say, like the last word in a sentence. But they often leave off endings or beginnings of words. For example, they may say “daw” for “dog” or “noo-noo’s” for “noodles.”
  • Baby talk at 2 years. By age 2, babies string together a few words in short phrases of two to four words, such as “Mommy bye-bye” or “me milk.” They’re learning that words mean more than objects like “cup” — they also mean abstract ideas like “mine.”
  • Baby talk at 3 years. By the time your baby is age 3, their vocabulary expands rapidly, and “make-believe” play spurs an understanding of symbolic and abstract language like “now,” feelings like “sad,” and spatial concepts like “in.”


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Can You Teach Babies to Talk?

Babies understand what you’re saying long before they can clearly speak. Many babies learning to talk use only one or two words at first, even when they understand 25 or more.

You can help your baby learn to talk if you:

  • Watch. Your baby may reach both arms up to say they want to be picked up, hand you a toy to say they want to play, or push food off their plate to say they’ve had enough. Smile, make eye contact, and respond to encourage these early, nonverbal attempts at baby talk.
  • Listen. Pay attention to your baby’s cooing and babbling, and coo and babble those same sounds right back to your baby. Babies try to imitate sounds their parents are making and to vary pitch and tone to match the language heard around them. So be patient and give your baby lots of time to “talk” to you.
  • Praise. Smile and applaud even the smallest or most confusing attempts at baby talk. Babies learn the power of speech by the reactions of adults around them.
  • Imitate. Babies love to hear their parents’ voices. And when parents talk to them it helps speech develop. The more you talk their “baby talk” with them, using short, simple but correct words, such as “dog” when your baby says “daw,” the more babies will keep trying to talk.
  • Elaborate. If your baby points to the table and makes noise, don’t just givethem more noodles. Instead, point to the noodles and say, “Do you want some more noodles? These noodles taste good with cheese, don’t they?”
  • Narrate. Talk about what you’re doing as you wash, dress, feed, and change your baby — “Let’s put on these blue socks now” or “I’m cutting up your chicken for you” — so your baby connects your speech to these objects and experiences.
  • Hang in there. Even when you don’t understand what your baby is saying, keep trying. Gently repeat back what you think is being said, and ask if that’s right. Keep offering your loving attention so your baby feels rewarded for trying to talk.
  • Let your child lead. During playtime, follow your child’s attention and interests to show that communication is a two-way game of talking and listening, leading, and following.
  • Play. Encourage children to play, pretend, and imagine out loud to develop verbal skills as they become toddlers.
  • Read aloud. Lifelong readers come from young children who have plenty of fun, relaxing experiences of being read to out loud.


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If You’re Concerned About a Speech Delay

Watch for any sign of a major speech delay in your baby, and talk with your doctor if you sense there’s a problem. A speech delay can happen for a number of reasons, but the earlier a speech problem in babies is diagnosed, the more time you’ll have to correct it and help your child reach their full potential before school age. After consulting with your pediatrician, here are things to do to help with delayed speech:

  • Have a hearing test done. As many as three out of 1,000 newborns have hearing loss, which can cause delayed speech development. Most states require a hearing screening in the hospital right after birth. Take your baby in for a full hearing exam by age 3 months if they don’t pass the initial hearing screening.
  • See a speech-language pathologist. A SLP can diagnose and treat specific speech, language, or voice disorders that delay speech. Treatment may include giving parents tips and games to improve speech problems in babies and improve a child’s language skills.
  • Consider developmental screening. Up to 17% of children in the U.S. have a developmental or behavioral disability such as autism spectrum disorder or cognitive disability. Ask your baby’s doctor about screening for these developmental problems, which can cause speech delays.

What’s the first step for babies learning to talk? Encourage your baby’s first words with your frequent cooing, babbling, talking, and singing. Keep responding positively and showing you care. When it comes to baby talk, that’s the best building block.

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