Once you begin hearing cooing, gurgling, or babbling, many new parents begin to wonder, “when do babies start talking?”

Of course from birth, your baby and you are already finding plenty of ways to communicate. Some of these are physical—like cuddles. Some can be emotive, like smiles and laughs. But talking? Now that’s a big one. Sharing a language with your child and watching their vocabulary expand can be an exciting time for the family. And it can mean an end to the moments when you’re wondering if that cry was a hungry cry or an I-want-attention cry.

There are many milestones within the first few years of your child’s life. The journey to talking has even more milestones: the moments when babies start understanding words, when babies say their first word, and when babies start talking clearly. Like many other milestones, there’s a broad range for when speaking begins. Some babies start as early as 9 or 10 months. Others may not utter a sound until 18 months.

Your Baby’s Talking Timeline

A timeline showing the typical talking milestones for babies.0-3 Months

At this point, what you’re looking for is your baby responding to you and your voice. They’ll likely also respond to your facial expressions. They may begin to coo and gurgle as well though that is more common later.

4-6 Months

At this point, most babies are babbling. You may hear some constant sounds from them as they gain more control over their tongue and throat. There is increased development in nonverbal communication here too. Your little one is starting to figure out all the ways they can get your attention, not all of them pleasant (think dropping things or yelling).

7-12 Months

By now your baby will begin to understand more of your language even if they can’t fully articulate. You may hear more syllable sounds like “ma” or “da” or “buh.” Your child is getting closer and closer to their first word! Your job is to stay interactive and encourage their babbling so that they understand you’re trying to communicate back to them.

If your baby starts saying full words, don’t expect their vocabulary to be gigantic. It’s still going to take time to connect what they hear and understand to what they can verbalize.

13-18 Months

This phase marks more intentional usage of words. Essentially, they’re reinforcing the few words they have. They may gain some vocabulary, but this varies from child to child.

Often during this period, it may feel like language skills are plateauing with just some more words gained. This could be because your baby is developing a lot of other skills like walking and more motor development. Don’t worry, your baby can only learn so much at once!

18-24 Months & After

By two years, your baby will likely be able to say simple sentences and have a broader vocabulary. Beyond two years, you’ll see massive gains in vocabulary. It will feel like your child is picking up new words every day!

Print out the talking timeline for your baby here.

How To Encourage Your Baby To Talk

There are many actions you can take from birth to toddlerhood to help your little one start chatting. Many of them are as easy as incorporating some changes to your routine and staying engaged with your child.

  • Get verbal. Read, talk, and sing to your child. You can narrate your actions and theirs.
  • Describe objects for them. Make their world full of language.
  • Use praise. Like many other milestones, a little encouragement from you goes a long way. Your cheering is positive reinforcement.
  • Avoid the screen. Language learning requires reciprocation and interaction. You can’t get that from the screen.

Here are even more ideas to help get your baby talking.

When To Call Your Doctor

Sometimes children experience delays in multiple milestones or just one. If your baby has experienced other delays, the same may be true for verbal communication. So it’s a good idea to check in with your pediatrician to see if you should expect this.

Your baby may also experience a language delay and not have any developmental delays. In fact, language delays are the most common. According to the Academy of American Pediatrics, 1 in 5 children will speak later than expected. These issues can take a number of different forms. Reach out to your physician if you notice any of the following (note that these may indicate non-language delays):

  • Does not respond to their name
  • Was talking, but is no longer talking
  • Does not express affection like cuddling or smile back at you
  • Does not notice noises or specific noises
  • Seems to tune other people out or the world
  • Has some language like the alphabet and their numbers, but struggles with using words to express their desires
  • Uses words or phrases that are unusual for the situation or repeats scripts from TV

A speech delay could also be indicative of another sensory issue and it’s worth checking in about this as well. This could be a hearing problem, an indicator that your child is on the spectrum, or some other developmental delay. Your pediatrician should do a thorough assessment and from there can advise you further. You can also speak to a developmental specialist as well.

While your baby transforms from a babbler into a full-blown chatterbox, it’s always a good idea to get your child care options organized. Get the help and support you need. At Sittercity, we’re here to help connect you to your next provider.

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