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Question

My baby is turning a year old this month. Should she be talking by now?

Datta Munshi MD, FAAP

Answer

Not necessarily. Infants and children grow and develop on their own, individual timelines. This means that they reach major milestones like talking through gradual progress from a series of smaller achievements.

Learning language basics

Speech development in infants starts right after they are born. The soothing voices they hear during diaper changes and feedings, for example, teach “conversation basics" like, “I cry, and someone responds." Then there's that magical first time they look into your eyes and coo and smile, usually at around two months of age. These moments usually get an immediate and adoring response from parents and cement verbal and non-verbal skills such as voice tone, turn-taking, noise imitation and verbal speed.

Babbling & mimicking

Between 4-7 months, babies start making repetitive sounds like “bah" or “dah." Their constant babbling allows them to experiment with different volumes and pitches. It also helps them fine-tune the message they want to communicate to others.

At around 6 or 7 months, babies start to mimic simple words like “mama", “dada", “doggie" and “go." Responding, repeating and adding sounds and words through face-to-face interaction, conversation, and book reading boosts further speech development.

Linking words​​ to actions

When they are about 8-12 months old, babies start to attach meaning to gestures, words and phrases they see and hear every day. They may begin to link words to actions when they hear simple sentences like “let's take a bath," or “let's get in the car seat." At this age, babies are like sponges. They absorb every smile, frown, and conversation as they start to comprehend and interact with the world around them. And they practice communicating back with gibberish, high-pitched screams, laughs, single words and gestures.

Around the time they reach their first birthday, babies babble using different sounds. They may say 1 or 2 simple words like “mama, “dada" or “bye-bye," recognize their name and people they see every day, and understand simple sentences like, “Where is daddy?"

Talk with your pediatrician

Don't hesitate to share any concerns you may have, such as if your baby:

  • doesn't respond to your voice or loud noises

  • stops babbling, vocalizing simple words, or doing things they used to do

  • seems overly sensitive to certain noises like a blender

  • doesn't seem to like to cuddle, smile or interact with others​

Remember

While it is normal to see variation in speech at this age, pediatricians can help make sure that your child is on track during well visits. Pediatricians have many tools to ​assess your child's progress and help the reach their full potential.

More information

Datta Munshi MD, FAAP

Dr. Datta Munshi is a community pediatrician in Georgia with a strong interest in pediatric behavioral health. She serves on the Georgia AAP School Health Committee, and faculty for the AAP Mental Health in Schools Project. She enjoys guest lecturing pediatric residents at Emory University School of Medicine.​​ In her free time, she tries to keep up with her 3 children’s sports schedules and her 2 Portuguese water dogs.​​

Last Updated
9/24/2021
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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