Baby’s First Words


Before babies learn to speak in a real language (no matter if it is English, Spanish, German, etc.) they coo and babble, playing with the sound. That is the talk of babies and baby talk sounds similar the world over. Many parents ask themselves when their babies will say their first words and they will hear it. The critical milestones for a baby learning to talk are happening in the first three years of life when the baby’s brain is rapidly developing. During this period, your baby’s speech development depends on your baby’s talk skills as well as your baby’s skills. [1]

Baby’s first words:

Baby's first words
Baby’s first words

The first baby talk is nonverbal. It happens soon after birth. Your baby wiggle, moan cries, and grimaces to express a range of emotions and physical needs, from fear and hunger to frustration and sensory overload. Good parents will learn to listen and interpret their baby’s different cries. You should not expect that the first words of your baby will be the same as the words of another baby.

The first words of babies vary greatly from one baby to another. There are some baby talk milestones which all babies need to have. If your baby misses some of these milestones in speech development, then you should talk with the pediatrician or family doctor about your concerns.

Baby talk milestones:

Here are some baby milestones which every baby should have [1]:

  • Baby talks at 3 months: When your baby is 3 months, he or she will listen to your voice. He or she will watch your face as you talk and turn toward other voices, sounds, and music that can be heard around the home. Many studies have been shown that many babies prefer a woman’s voice over a man’s voice. Also, many babies prefer voices and music they heard while they were still in the womb. By the end of three months, your baby will begin cooing a happy, gentle, and repetitive sing-song vocalization.
  • Baby talk at 6 months: When your baby is six months old, then he or she begins babbling with different sounds. For example, your baby can say the next expressions da – da or baba. By the end of the 6th or 7th month, your baby will respond to his or her name, recognize the native language, and use their tone of voice to tell that you are happy or upset. Some parents have said that the first string that their babies have interpreted “da – da” is the word – daddy. But, you should know that babbling at this age is still made up of random syllables without real meaning or comprehension.
  • Baby talks at 9 months: After nine months have passed in your baby’s life, your baby will understand some basic words, like bye-bye and no. Also, they may begin to use a wider range of consonant sounds and tones of voice.
  • Baby talks at 12 –18 months: Most babies will say few simple words, like mama and daddy, by the end of 12 months. Now, they know what they are saying. They will respond to your simple requests, such as “please put that down”. If they do not respond to it, they at least understand what you speak.
  • Baby talk at 18 months: When babies are 18 months old, then they say several simple words and they can point to body parts, objects, and people you name for them. They repeat sounds or words they hear you say, like the last word of some sentence that you have said. But, they often leave offending or beginnings of words. For example, they may say noo – noo’s for noodles and daw for the dog.
  • Baby talk at 2 years: By age of two, your baby will string together a few words in short phrases of 2 – 4 words, such as “me milk” or “Mommy bye-bye.” Your baby will learn that words mean more than objects, like cups. Also, they mean abstract ideas like mine.
  • Baby talk at 3 years: By the time your baby is age 3, his or her vocabulary will expand rapidly and make-believe play spurs an understanding of symbolic and abstract languages, like now, spatial concepts like in, and feelings like sad.

How to teach your baby to talk:

You should know that your baby will understand what you speak long before he or she can clearly speak. Many babies are learning to talk use only one or two words at first, even when they understand 25 or more. There are many ways in which you can help your baby to learn talk, such as:

  • Read aloud: It has been shown that lifelong readers come from young children who have plenty of fun, relaxing experiences of being read to out loud. [2]
  • Play: You should encourage your children to play, pretend and imagine out loud. This can help to develop verbal skills as they become toddlers. [2]
  • Let your child lead: When you are playing with your child, you should follow your child’s attention and interests to show that communication is a two–way game of talking and following, leading, and listening.
  • Hang in there: Even if you do not know what your baby is saying, you need to keep trying to understand. You should gently repeat what you think is being said and ask your baby if this is right. You should keep offering your loving attention, so your baby will feel rewarded for trying to talk.
  • Narrate: You should talk about what you are doing as you change, feed, dress, and wash your baby. You can say some interesting sentences, like “I’m cutting up your chicken for you” or “Let’s put on these blue socks now.” In this way, your baby will connect your speech to these objects and experiences. [2,3]
  • Elaborate: If you see that your baby points to the table and make noise, then you should not give him or her more noodles. Instead, you should ask your baby “Do you want mommy to give you some more noodles? These noodles are best with cheese, don’t they?”
  • Imitate: You should know that your baby will love to hear your voice. When you and your partner talk with your baby, then this will help your baby to develop speech. You should try to speak with your baby as much as you can. You should use short, simple, but correct words, so your baby will learn to say words right. Do not say daw for the dog, say dog and repeat it so many times until you hear that your baby will say dog. In this way, your baby will be more talkative.
  • Praise: You should smile and applaud even at the smallest or most confusing attempts at baby talk. Your baby will learn the power of speech by the reactions of the adults around them.
  • Listen: You should pay always attention to your baby’s cooing and babbling. You should coo and babble those same sounds right back to your baby. Babies are trying to imitate sounds their parents are making and to vary pitch and tone to match the language they hear around them. So, you need to be patient and you need to give your baby a lot of time to talk to you.
  • Watch: Your baby will reach both arms up, so you will know that he or she wants to be picked up. They can hand you a toy to say that they want to play with it. They can push food off their plate, so you will know that they had enough. You need to smile, make eye contact, and respond to encourage these early and nonverbal attempts at baby talk.

If you are concerned about a speech delay:

You should always watch for any sign of a major speech delay in your baby and you should talk with your doctor if you sense that there is a problem. There are many different reasons which could lead to speech development, but the earlier a speech problem in babies is diagnosed, the more time you will have to correct it and this will help your child to reach their full potential before school age. You can make a hearing loss test after talking with the doctor. [4]

There are some studies in which are shown that as many as 3 out of 1,000 newborns have hearing loss and this can cause delayed speech development [5]. In most states, it is required to make a hearing screening in the hospital right after birth. You should take your baby for a full hearing exam by age three months if he or she does not pass the initial hearing screening. Also, you can see a speech-language pathologist which can help to diagnose and treat specific language, speech, or voice disorders in your children which can delay speech.

The treatment of this condition may include giving parents tips and games to improve the speech problems in the babies and improve a child’s language skills. Many babies suffer from developmental or behavioral disabilities, like cognitive disability or autism spectrum disorder. You should talk with your doctor about making screening for these conditions which can cause speech delays in your children.


[1] University of California – Los Angeles. Babies prefer baby talk, whether they’re learning one language or two. Science Daily. 2021. Retrieved from

[2] University of Edinburgh. Infants’ language skills more advanced than first words suggest. Science Daily. 2021. Retrieved from

[3] Weisleder A, Fernald A. Talking to children matters: Early language experience strengthens processing and builds vocabulary. Psychological Science. 2013;24(11):2143–52. doi:10.1177/0956797613488145

[4] LaMotte S. ‘Parentese,’ not traditional baby talk, boosts a baby’s language development. CNN Health. 2020. Retrieved from

[5] Lang-Roth R. Hearing impairment and language delay in infants: Diagnostics and genetics. GMS Current Topics in Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery. 2014;13: Doc05. doi:10.3205/cto000108


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