When Do Babies Start Talking? - Baby Chick
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When Do Babies Start Talking?

A pediatric speech-language pathologist explains the early stages of baby speech development, when your baby will start talking, and more.

Updated May 9, 2024

by Chelsea Snyder

Speech Language Pathologist, MS, CCC-SLP
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Embarking on the journey of parenthood brings a myriad of questions, especially surrounding the milestones of infant development. Among these queries, the timing of baby’s first words holds a particular fascination. From the moment babies coo and babble in their cribs, parents eagerly anticipate when true baby talk will begin. Understanding when babies start talking is not only a source of curiosity but also a fundamental aspect of nurturing language skills. In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of early communication to explore when and how babies start talking, including the age at which they’ll say their first words and important speech milestones.

When Do They Start Babbling?

The first stage of baby language development begins with babbling, the delightful precursor to actual speech. This is what most people recognize and identify as baby talk. Babbling involves repeating syllables such as “ba-ba-ba” and “ma-ma-ma.” It eventually progresses to various syllable and vowel sequences, such as “ma-da-ba-da.” According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), babies typically start babbling around 6 to 8 months of age.1 This early form of communication involves repeating syllables such as “ba-ba” or “ma-ma” and experimenting with different sounds. Babbling can also include oral exploration of sounds, such as blowing those sweet raspberries and making different sounds while mouthing toys.

When Do Babies Start Talking?

The transition from babbling to talking varies from child to child. On average, babies utter their first words between 10 and 14 months of age.2 However, it’s essential to remember that each baby develops at their own pace and that, at this time, baby talk can look different for each child. Baby’s first words may come as early as 9 months of age, while others may take a bit longer.3,4

It’s also important to note that words at this age may not sound exactly like how we, as adults, pronounce them. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) count any word or word approximation used repeatedly, consistently, and with meaning as a word.5 For example, your child might say “ba” for “ball,” which is perfectly acceptable baby language at this age. According to the Mayo Clinic and ASHA, babies should say at least one to two words by 12 months.1,6 Words at this age include things such as “uh-oh” or “mama” and “dada.”6

When Will They Start Saying “Mama”?

For most parents, hearing their baby say “mama” for the first time is a cherished moment. This milestone typically occurs around 8 to 12 months of age while their first words and earliest forms of baby talk are developing.3,6 However, don’t be disheartened if your baby’s first word isn’t “mama.” Children typically develop sounds in an order referred to as “consonant acquisition” based on where and how the sound is in their mouth.7,8 Based on ASHA’s Consonant Age of Acquisition chart, /m/ is typically acquired and used with mastery around 18 months of age.9 Therefore, “mama” may come a bit later than other early words.

When Will They Say “Dada”?

Caring father holding his only beloved adorable little boy and teaching him to talk.

“Dada” will usually be heard right around the same time as “mama” between 8 and 12 months of age.3,6 However, the stiff competition of “will baby say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ first” is often won by dad! Even though the /d/ sound is typically acquired around the same time as the /m/ based on ASHA’s Consonant Age of Acquisition chart, observationally, we usually see babies producing the /d/ sound earlier on.9 Babies often use vocal play and early baby talk with the /d/ sound because it takes less effort, and it is easier for their articulators to make the /d/ sound. However, other sources claim the /d/ sound is actually harder for babies to make compared to the /m/ sound.10 Whichever you’re blessed to hear baby say first, know that they love their mama and dada just the same!

Speech Milestones

Between 12 months and 2 years of age, baby’s speech development is going to explode! Baby talk quickly turns into little human talk as your child begins to really start using language functionally to communicate with the world around them. Their vocabulary expands tremendously, and they start forming simple sentences.2 According to the Mayo Clinic, most toddlers can say about 10 words or more by 18 months. By age 2, they typically have a vocabulary of 50 words or more and can string two-word phrases together, such as “more juice” or “my toy.”6

How To Teach Your Baby To Start Talking

While babies naturally pick up language through exposure and interaction, here are some tried and true ways that parents can encourage their little ones to start talking:

  • Talk to your baby: Engage in conversations with your baby throughout the day. Describe your actions, point out objects, and respond to their babbling.1,3
  • Read together: Reading to your baby exposes them to language and helps them develop an understanding of words and sentences.1,2,11
  • Sing songs and nursery rhymes: Music captures babies’ attention and helps them recognize patterns in speech.1,12
  • Use gestures: Incorporate gestures such as waving, pointing, and clapping into your interactions. This can help babies understand the meaning behind words.1,3
  • Be patient: Remember that language development takes time. Celebrate your baby’s speech milestones and provide plenty of encouragement!

What To Do if You’re Concerned About a Speech Delay

It’s natural for babies to develop at different rates. However, speech delays can sometimes indicate underlying issues.4 If you’re concerned about your baby’s speech development, consider the following steps:

  • Consult their pediatrician: If you notice significant delays or regression in your baby’s speech milestones, it’s essential to seek advice from your child’s pediatrician.6
  • Use early intervention services: In many cases, early intervention programs can provide support and resources to help address speech delays.13
  • Try speech therapy: If necessary, a speech-language pathologist can work with your baby to improve their communication skills.14
  • Create a language-rich environment: Continue to engage with your baby through talking, reading, and playing to stimulate language development.3

Babies embark on an incredible journey of speech development from the moment they start babbling to their first words and beyond. While the timeline for reaching speech milestones may vary, parents play a crucial role in nurturing their baby’s communication skills. By creating a supportive and language-rich environment, you can help your little one unlock the wonders of speech and language.

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Chelsea Snyder
Chelsea Snyder Speech Language Pathologist, MS, CCC-SLP
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Hello! I'm a pediatric speech-language pathologist passionate about educating and empowering mamas and parents to support their kids' communication and feeding development. From breastfeeding and introducing solids, first words, and… Read more

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