Your baby’s speech and language development

How does your baby’s speech and language development proceed, roughly?

I know that every baby develops at their own pace but roughly, what are the milestones in a baby’s speech and language development?

A baby learns a great deal in the first year of life: looking, listening, pointing, grabbing, rolling, crawling, pushing forward, and walking. The order in which children learn these things differs from one child to the next. It is as if babies have certain preferences. The one child starts earlier with listening, and the other with rolling.

There are wide variations in the time different children can do things. When a child is late walking it could be that they started looking at pictures earlier. Don’t be quick to jump to the conclusion that your child ‘is doing nothing’: they are busy mapping out the world. One starts here and the other there.

How does your baby’s speech and language development proceed, roughly?

Thus, every child develops in their own way and at their own pace. But there are milestones that point to the progressive coordination of muscle movements that are used in speech. In the table below you can see a few important steps on route to speaking the native language. Do keep in mind that the ages listed with the milestones are those indicating when a baby is first capable of doing something. And we think this occurs in conjunction with the development of the nervous system. If a child does something later than listed in the table that could simply mean they have decided to learn something else first.

0-2 weeks

Your baby makes sounds such as ‘uh’ and ‘ooh’, in situations in which you are talking to your baby, newborn tries to ‘talk back’ using their whole body and makes groaning and pushing sounds. The ‘uh’ sounds a little like the word ‘the’.

From 6 weeks

Your baby can make two sounds in one breath, such as ‘ah-ah’ or ‘ooh-ooh’. They liken to sounds with two syllables and there may even be a difference in pitch. The ‘ah-ah’ sounds a little like the forbidding ‘nah-ah, don’t do that’ in adult speech.

From 12 weeks

From now, babies can combine breath, voice and mouth movements. These three movement mechanisms are required to talk. Three-month-old babies can make sounds such as ‘kaka’ and ‘gaga.’

Around 15 weeks

Your baby is highly interested on the movements of your mouth. They look at the movements and try to mimic them without making a sound. Combining all those lip movements with breathing and the voice is still too complicated for your baby.

Around 4 months

Your baby makes long drawn out sounds, they vary from loud to quiet and from high to low. Your baby can grunt and let out a high-pitched scream without it being crying.

From 5 months

Your baby starts babbling: in a single breath, they can say several syllables that sound like ‘ma-ba-da’ or ‘da-da-da’. This is a basic block for speech with regards to muscle coordination. After this it will only get more complicated. They are a lot like words but your baby does not mean anything specific.

Around 12 months

On average babies say their first word at 12 months: your baby understands that a word means something specific. The first words are often ‘Dada,’ ‘Mama,’ ‘baba,’ or ‘ball’.

From 17 months

From this age toddlers can make ‘sentences’ with two words such as ‘where ball’ and ‘cat eat’.