bond with baby

Development & Learning

Language & Speech Development

Babies don't learn to talk by pressing buttons on toys that 'talk' and make sounds or by hearing conversations from a television or from DVDs advertised to promote babies' learning. As research has continually proven, they learn from parents' communicative interactions (discussed in Communicating with Baby) - through your 'baby talk' and daily conversations, your loving facial gestures, singing songs and rhymes, playing games, reading stories (as seen on the Bond With Baby video demonstration) - all of which create a rich environment for the learning of speech and language and are crucial to the development of your relationship with Baby. Babies' ability to express early language develops in stages and is interlinked with their social/emotional, cognitive and physical development:

  • During the first month, babies vocal expressions occur as sounds associated with feeding (e.g. sucking, swallowing, gulping, burping), discomfort and tiredness which of course is heard in their cries and whimpers, and pleasure that is mouthed like murmurs. They are very receptive to parents' voices, listening to every word and feeling comforted by the sensitive tone of speech as they gaze intently at their mum/dad's face.
  • From approximately 4 weeks and into the 3rd month babies begin to make what are known as cooing sounds when they are in a contented/settled mood and especially during interactions with their smiling parents. (click here for cooing sound) These sounds are in short bursts at low pitch that are made toward the back of the throat. By about 8 weeks babies are experimenting with 'gurgling' sounds and during the latter part of this period are starting to develop sounds of laughter/giggle.
  • At 4 months and further developing to 6 months babies are really starting to discover their vocal expressions. Loud chuckles/laughter dominate their playful mood. (Click here to listen to 4 and half month old laughing. Listen to the rise and fall in his voice expressing excitement). Through playful discovery and parents' vocal encouragement, babies are becoming capable of sounds that can range in pitch going from a very low throaty growl-like sound to a high-pitched shrill/squeal and varying in volume from a whisper to a scream. During these months their speech is becoming more pronounced as they start producing 'ga' and 'gu' sounds. From 4 months (even younger for some babies) Baby might start to join in with you as you sing to him ... and will also add his own version of singing! This becomes a musical game as you and Baby respond/reciprocate to each other's playful production of vocal sounds.
  • From approximately 6 months and into the second half of their first year babies' vocalisations have developed into what is know as babble. This meaning that much of their vocalisation becomes repetitive and tends to form a rhythmic pattern e.g. the sound 'ba' becomes 'bababa', and words such as 'mamama', 'dadada', 'bye-bye' are spoken. During this period (around 9 months) babies are beginning to understand the meaning of 'no' (and start saying it!) and respond to simple instructions e.g. 'put the spoon in the cup', 'do you have a kiss for Mummy/Daddy'? By the age of 1, single words of one syllable are being vocalised e.g. 'car', 'plane', 'dog' which progresses to using two words e.g. saying 'go car' meaning 'we are going in the car'.

A general guide to babies' language and speech development during the first year:

Baby's Age Language Developmental Milestones
Early weeks

Vocalises sounds associated with feeding, discomfort, tiredness and pleasure.

2-4 months

Cooing sounds of contentment.

Low pitched sounds such as gurgling noises are being explored.

Laughter is developing – approx. 3rd month and onward.

Starts ‘talking’ to toys e.g. an object hanging on the overhead play-gym.

Begins to reciprocate in a ‘conversation’ with parents.

Imitates parents singing when being sung to – approx. 3rd month.

4-6 months

Chuckles/laughs loudly.

Becoming more of a ‘conversationist’.

‘Singing’ is further developing.

Low to high pitched playful noises are being produced.

Cooing is becoming more pronounced with sounds such as ‘ga’ and ‘gu’.

6-9 months

Babbling begins with repetitive sounds such as ‘bababa’ as Baby talks with contentment.

Further development of playful sounds and singing.

Beginning to understand simple instructions e.g. Kiss Mummy.

9-12 months

Understanding the meaning of ‘no’ and is now starting to say ‘no’.

Understanding of vocal instructions is further developing e.g. put the spoon in the cup.

Imitates the reading of a story e.g. during playtime Baby may sit with a book and ‘read’ to herself using free flowing babble type language.

Words of one syllable e.g. ‘car’, ‘plane’, ‘dog’ are being vocalised.