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Look Who's Talking

“Mama” and “dada”—2 words that are guaranteed to sound like music to your ears. After all, they represent not only one of the most memorable steps babies make toward talking, but a 2-syllable recognition of all your devoted love and attention. While it will be many months before your baby will be able to master this milestone, it certainly won’t be your baby’s first when it comes to language development. Below are some of the significant stepping stones that will lead up to the day when your child will actually be able to talk (and talk back!) to you.

  • Newborn: Crying is really going to be your newborn’s primary form of vocalization. While crying is admittedly less than perfect in conveying what babies want or need, it’s definitely a start.
  • 8 weeks: Cooing and babbling begins. These crowd-pleasing skills will symbolize your baby’s first more formal attempts to vocalize, soon to be followed by actual consonants and vowels.
  • 6 to 8 months: Your baby will happily use his voice for making sounds and even some more elaborate streams of babble, but no words yet. The much-anticipated “mama” and “dada” are sure to surface—albeit arbitrarily mixed in with other sounds and, we should note, with “dada” typically being uttered first if only because it’s easier for babies to say (ie, with no implications of parental preference!).
  • 1 year: By a year, be prepared to celebrate not only your baby’s first birthday, but also the long-awaited “mama” and “dada,” now being used intentionally to refer to you! You can also anticipate hearing some simple exclamations like “uh-oh,” as well as a few single words. And while there’s sure to be plenty of animated babbling and attempts to imitate words, don’t expect your baby’s self-expression to string together into full sentences just yet.
  • 18 months: Your ears will likely be graced with the sounds of at least several stand-alone words. Your toddler may even be able to put 2 words together—such as “all done”—in order to more meaningfully convey his wishes. Rest assured, however, that your toddler understands far more words than he can speak.
  • 2 years: Now we’re talking…as in 2- to 4-word sentences and the start of real conversation (along with a whole lot of repetition). Before long, you’ll have a hard time remembering the sounds of your newborn’s silence!

To sum it up: While it may take well into toddlerhood before your baby is able to put her thoughts, feelings, and demands into words you can understand, she’ll be communicating with you long before then.

Last Updated
Heading Home With Your Newborn, 2nd Edition (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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