Look at this! Not so long ago you were searching for information about labor and here you are, wondering when babies start talking. Let’s look at babies’ speech development, language milestones and when babies talk.
When do babies start saying words?
Most babies start saying words from about 12-18 months of age. However, babies start communicating and making sounds almost from birth.
Babies babble and play with their voices and experiment with the sounds that come out of their mouths. That means they usually say their first word much earlier than they actually realize that the sound is an actual word.
Babies start saying words intentionally from as early as 1 year old. Some babies start talking much later but that doesn’t mean they need to be referred to a speech-language pathologist.
A late start doesn’t mean there’s a problem in your child’s language development. It just means some babies start talking sooner than others.
What is the earliest a baby can talk?
Research shows that there is a complex process from baby babbling to the one-word stage. It’s not easy to determine what’s the earliest a baby can really ‘talk’, because talking – even baby talk – needs intention. Some babies might be able to say their first words as early as 7-8 months of age.
Do boys talk later than girls?
In general, girls tend to dominate the talking business earlier than boys. As anthropologist Desmond Morris explains in his book, The Human Sexes, since the beginning of humanity women have been in charge of communication and relationships between the members of the community.
Baby girls also practise baby talk inside the uterus much more often than baby boys do.
Boys are generally more physical and spend much more time kicking and stretching inside the womb.
Although we’ve established that each baby is unique and individuals develop at their own pace, let’s look at the language developmental milestones, to give you an idea of when your baby might start talking.
Baby babble happens right from birth. Babbling is all the voluntary sounds a baby makes. In time, babbling will become full words.
Babies start talking as their babbling improves. When the baby says something that’s similar to a real word, it’s usually celebrated. This will encourage the baby to talk again and try to repeat the words that got a reaction from loved ones. If you want to encourage talking and improve your baby’s language skills from an early age, spend time talking to your baby from the very first moment you know of her existence.
Most babies start talking and are able to say a few basic words around 18 months of age.
There might be various reasons that provoke speech delays. A household where there is more than one language spoken will most likely influence the child’s speech development. A child might have a speech delay and will take longer to say her first words.
You might have heard about language delays in autistic children and feel worried about your child’s speech milestones.
For non-verbal children with an autism spectrum disorder, speech and language development will be more challenging; however, it’s very difficult – almost impossible – to diagnose autism based solely on language skills or the time when babies say their first word.
You can read more about this in BellyBelly’s article Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Parent’s Inspirational Journey With Autism.
How many words should a 1-year-old say?
It’s usual for babies to start saying a few words around their first birthday. These are usually simple words that are used very frequently, such as ‘Ma ma’, ‘Pa pa’, ‘Da da’, ‘aba’, ‘waba’ and ‘bye-bye’. With time these few simple words will then develop into other words, such as ‘water’ or ‘boobie’.
It’s important to keep pronouncing the words correctly for the baby to learn the right sounds and pronunciation.
It’s also important to know that a one-year-old might make a few sounds that we cannot really call words – and that’s also okay. We need to give babies plenty of time before considering a speech and language therapist. Babies say their first words when you least expect it.
If your baby’s talk is not at the stage you’d like it to be, don’t panic. Sing songs and nursery rhymes, repeat words and teach your baby new words, consonant sounds and complete words. Singing and talking to your baby are the best exercises you can do for your baby to learn more words and start talking.
Is it possible for a 6-month-old to talk?
It’s possible for a 6-month-old to babble or even to say a few actual words. A baby repeats what a baby hears but 6-month-old infants can’t really talk. They might say some words but they cannot say, for example, three-word sentences.
It is possible for 6-month-old babies to say their first words but it isn’t very common.
When do babies talk in sentences?
Most children, when they’re between 18 and 24 months old, start to say two-word phrases, such as ‘Me out’ and ‘Want boob’. From this beginning, baby talk will quickly develop towards adding an extra word: ‘now’, ‘out’, ‘big’.
By the time a child reaches 3 years of age, she should have a good repertory of words and short sentences that keep growing and improving daily.
Some magical first words
I’ve asked my friends, students and followers for some of those magical first words; here is a compilation of what they have told me.
I love you
Kenai was on a video call with his mum and grandma when he clearly said, ‘I love you’, at 7 months of age. His grandma Erika was the first one who told me her ‘first words story’ when I asked this. Wouldn’t you share it out loud if it happened to you?
Garden and pancakes
Ella’s son, Felix, one week before his first birthday, looked out of the window and said, ‘Garden’, as clear as day. Then he refused to say that or any other word for another month and went on to full sentences from that first word.
Felix’s younger brother, Axel, greeted his mum with ‘Mama’, followed by ‘Pancakes’, the next day. In Ella’s words: ‘I guess pancakes are pretty great too’.
Tierra’s 10 month old daughter had been very vocal since she was 4 months old. One day her mum and big brother were talking a lot about the weather forecast, as it was supposed to snow.
When they went out later that day, the 10-month-old looked at the sky as snowflakes were falling.
In Tierra’s words:
‘With big, sparkly eyes and a voice full of wonder, the baby turned and looked at me, finger pointed skyward, and exclaimed, ‘Ooooh! No!’
‘It was a magical moment that I will never forget!’
Sarahlynn’s first baby, Brooklyn, is her only daughter (of 6 siblings). Every time Brooklyn finished breastfeeding, Sarah would say, ‘Yum’. As proof that baby listens, ‘Yum’ was Brooklyn’s first word, at around 11 months of age.
Eloi, at 3 months of age, greeted his mum’s client with ‘Bon dia!’, which is ‘Good day’ in Catalan.
His mum, Imma, is an independent midwife. One day, when Eloi was 3 months old, Imma took him on a home visit with her.
As Imma’s client opened the door, she said, ‘Bon dia’ and Eloi repeated it straight after her.
Lindsey said this about her daughter Norah’s first words.
‘My daughter Norah loves her big sister so much that one of her first words (right after ‘mama’) was ‘Ella!’ And she says it with exclamation almost every time’.
What a beautiful way to connect both of your daughters!
Home is nice
After a nice walk outside, Mary Jo’s baby said, ‘Home is nice’, as he arrived home. What a wise first set of words!
I like cheese
My friend Indie’s firstborn’s first words were ‘I like cheese’. Those should have been my first words.
Where dat woof?
I’m just going to let my friend Denise explain to you her son’s first sentence.
‘We were reading books on my bed when my baby asked, ‘Where dat woof?’ I knew he was asking about the dog barking in the distance before it dawned on me that he had uttered a clear sentence.
‘His actual first word was ‘dada’, months earlier, but his explosion into language was properly explosive at 11 months.
‘Our family doctor doubted me when I estimated his word count at 18 months, until we were leaving the appointment. My 17-month-old stuck out his chubby little hand to shake the doctor’s hand and said, ‘Bye Doctor Hauptmann!’ I winked and suggested he could add two words to my original estimate, as I hadn’t considered ‘doctor’ or his last name.
‘He is now a grown man who speaks from the minute he rises until he falls asleep’ if the circumstances allow. His undergraduate degree is in linguistics’.
The ‘d’ and ‘p’ sounds are some of the first sounds a baby tries to make. Usually the ‘ma’ sound is the easiest. Not for baby Jaxon, whose first word was ‘Dada’; he kept repeating it, despite his mother’s effort to have him say ‘Mama’. ‘Da da da da da da’ was all that came from Jaxon’s mouth.
This is most babies’ first word. It’s actually the reason why mothers all over the world are called something very similar to ‘ma ma’. The ‘ma’ sound is the easiest to make.
The mother gets so happy when she hears her baby say ‘mama’ that she’ll tell the baby to keep doing it because that makes her feel good.
It has, for sure, been the first word I’ve heard coming out of Gaia, Zoé and Lúa’s mouths. I’d love to add an original story about my own daughters’ first words but I’m most delighted that the three of them share the first word between them.
For a huge number of babies, their first word is Mamá, with the Spanish stress. Just as Norah says ‘Ella!’ with an exclamation, my babies’ first word was ‘Mamá’.
What does it mean if a baby talks early?
Babies experiment with their voices, and with their bodies in general, from a very young age. If a baby talks early (says full sentences before 2 years of age) that’s wonderful; it doesn’t mean, though, that that child will get a degree in linguistics, as Denise’s son did.
Try not to give early speech development too much importance. Just enjoy the fact that your child can communicate so well from such a young age and keep encouraging that learning. There’s no limit to language development.
Sing songs, read to them, tell them stories. Talk to your babies using the correct words. If your baby says words incorrectly, don’t modify that behavior, just make sure you don’t pronounce them the way your child does but in the correct way.
Read more about this in BellyBelly’s articles: