From the moment your baby is born, you start waiting for the moment when you will hear your baby’s first words. Cooing turns into babbling and you think that the moment is near. Soon, you see that other children of the same age are confidently saying “mama” and “dada” and you start to wonder.
When Are Babies Supposed to Talk?
It’s natural to worry that your baby is delayed in developing speech. Aside from the desire to talk with your child, speech is a crucial developmental milestone that all parents are eager to hit. Generally speaking, babies begin to say recognizable sounds at 7 months and comprehendible words around 1 year; they only start combining those words into phrases at 2 years
It’s important to note that the window for speech development is large and children often begin to talk on their own timelines. As with other developmental skills, some children will start talking later than others while still being in the expected developmental time frame. In fact, if your child is excelling in their motor skills, they may be delayed in their speech development. That said, if you have a concern relating to your baby’s development, it is best to see your family pediatrician and make sure everything is on track.
Whether you have an appointment scheduled with your pediatrician to discuss your baby’s speech development, or you’re simply curious about when you’ll start to hear those first few words, let’s dive into 3 times you shouldn’t panic as a parent with a baby who hasn’t begun to talk yet.
1. Your Baby Isn’t Talking in Full Sentences
It’s common to understand the word “talking” as something we do with our friends at a coffee shop or our partners at dinner. We’re all eager to talk to our babies in this way, as conversations are an important way to bond and connect. Let’s remember though that two-year-olds are only beginning to use sentences. The sentences that two-year-olds are forming are far from fully fleshed. Instead, two-year-olds are more commonly using two-word phrases that express simple ideas like, “no eat” or “mama up.”
Your child will not begin to talk in long, grammatically correct sentences until later in their development. Conjugating verbs, understanding adjectives, and using prepositions are skills that are far too advanced for a baby who is still learning basic vocabulary. Talking as a young child is much different than talking as an adult. When babies can string two or three words together, this is considered talking for their age, so don’t panic.
Once babies start to explore the idea of combining words into phrases, it’s likely that you’ll see this language ability continue to progress. In fact, you may notice what’s commonly referred to as a “language explosion,” which is a quick expansion of language abilities in babies at around 18 months of age or soon thereafter.
2. Your Baby Isn’t Talking as Much as Other Babies Their Age
It’s easy to play the comparison game as your baby grows and develops. Why is every other baby already sitting up? Why is every other baby already crawling? Why is every other baby already talking? It can be tempting to view your own baby’s development through the lens of the development of others.
Remember those development milestones are given in date ranges, like 12-15 months, not deadlines. While your pediatrician should be aware of developmental delays, just because your child isn’t hitting developmental milestones perfectly doesn’t mean they won’t develop skills. In regards to talking, babies will begin to say recognizable sounds at 7 months, then single words around 1 year. This leaves a 5-month window in which it is completely normal for these words to form and for your baby to still be on track developmentally.
It can be frustrating to see a baby who started saying words at 7 months of age when you are waiting closer to the 1-year mark for your baby to develop that same skill. If you are still within the typical developmental window, resist the urge to panic and remember that children learn at their own pace and your baby still has plenty of time to develop the skill. The progression of other babies has nothing to do with the progression of your own.
It’s also important to remember that your child may take longer to talk if they are bilingual, as the brain needs to learn and process two languages. If your child is behind on their milestones while learning two languages, this is normal.
3. The Internet Told You So
The large amount of information that’s available on the internet these days makes it easy to get lost in a rabbit hole of facts that may not even be true. While you may have started your search hoping to get some basic facts about when your baby will start talking, the internet had other plans and gave you lots of contradictory and scary information. How are you supposed to know who you should trust? When it comes to something as important as the development of your baby, there’s no replacement for evaluation from a proper medical professional that knows your baby’s unique developmental journey.
If you have concerns about whether your child is supposed to be talking at a faster rate, don’t panic and schedule a visit with your family pediatrician. Given your pediatrician’s history with your baby, it’s likely they will be able to make a quick determination as to whether your baby’s speech progression is a cause for concern or not. Your pediatrician will also be able to give you suggestions on fostering speech given your baby’s specific characteristics and needs.
You may have learned by now that having a baby comes with very few certainties. While we would all love to circle a date on the calendar and know for a fact that we’ll hear those first words, babies like to keep us guessing as to when exactly they’ll begin to talk. Remember that speech can develop within a fairly large window of time and still be considered typical. Knowing this fact doesn’t always make the waiting game any easier though. When in doubt, take a deep breath, don’t panic, and call your pediatrician.
Early Steps is a great program that can help you understand your child’s development and provide guidance if there is a delay. To learn more about getting involved with Early Steps, click here.