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Baby talk milestones

Your baby starts communicating from his first cry. He may not use words but he is letting you know he's aware and alert. That first cry is followed by a variety of baby talk that ranges from cooing and babbling to his first attempts at words.

Over the next 3 years, this 'baby talk' progresses to sentences and the beginning of speech as we know it. It's important to remember that each child is unique, and some infants may be faster, or slower, than others to reach certain speech milestones.

Baby Playing in Grass

Newborn - 3 months

Generally, newborn babies communicate with sounds, including:

  • Crying
  • Cooing or gurgling
  • Oohing and ahing
  • Sighing.

Even silence can be a form of communication. Research shows that even in the womb, babies can hear and recognise their parents' voices. So, your newborn may go quiet because she is listening to you talk, and learning from the sounds that you are making. She will probably turn towards a familiar sound like your voice, or a favourite squeaky toy. Research shows babies are also tuned into music from a very early age, so she may also respond to and be soothed by music or lullabies.

During this stage, your baby is also watching your face and reacting to your presence with smiles, excited noises, and waving her arms or legs. She may be able to distinguish certain sounds from your lip movements. You may notice more vowel sounds like 'oohs' appear at about 2 months as she uses her lips, tongue and palate to make noise. These sounds may become more repetitive and sing-songy by 3 months. At this stage, you may also start to distinguish different types of cries, as you baby let's you know if she is frustrated, uncomfortable or hungry.

4-6 months

From about 4 months onward, your baby may start to vocalise a stream of babbling sounds. This babbling is commonly the back-of-the-tongue sounds like 'g' and 'k', and lip sounds like 'p', 'm' 'w' and 'b'. This first 'baby talk' may also combine vowels and consonants, so he may repeat sounds like 'ga-ga' or 'da-da-da'. While this is exciting for a parent, it's more likely at this stage that he is babbling randomly, rather than actually understanding the meaning of the word. This babbling stage in babies is universal, regardless of the native language being learned. Studies suggest babies can probably distinguish their own native tongue at this stage although they are not able to understand it as yet.

At about 4 months, your baby is likely to pay attention to his name, although at this point, it's no more significant than any other word. Nearer to 6 months, he may realise the name refers to him. At this point, your baby may also be learning to use tone, or high or low pitches in his voice, that reflect whether he's happy or upset.

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