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My baby’s first words

when do babies say their first word?

Key points:
1. Babies learn to talk through imitation and association.
2. A baby’s first words, like “mama” or “dada,” start as babbling sounds.
3. To stimulate language development, speak to your baby often and engage in conversations.
4. Language milestones evolve from birth to 25 months, with each stage indicating progress.

Have you ever wondered when do babies say their first word? Here you’ll find the answer and we’ll explain how you can foster your little one’s communication skills!

Babies learn to talk by imitation. We do not need to teach them word by word, all we have to do is talk constantly to them. By naming the objects and people they see, they will begin to associate the word with the object or person. Then, when they develop the adequate skills to talk, they will begin to repeat those sounds to form their first words.

Generally speaking, a baby’s first word is “mama” or “papa/dada”, but when these words are first spoken they are merely babbles; your little one hasn’t learned yet to associate “dada” with dad or “mama” with mom. After babies learn to pronounce disyllables such as the examples above, you might hear them experiment with different sounds, and although none have true meaning just yet, they are preparing to communicate verbally.

Some babies as early as 9 months begin to form word-like sounds, but if your little one is not there yet, be patient. Most children begin to say words with meaning roughly around 11 to 16 months of age. It’s even considered normal for babies not to speak until 18 months of age. When they begin to pronounce words with meaning, “mama” or “dada” will actually mean “mom” or “dad” –such a sweet sound to a parent’s ear!

Can I stimulate my baby’s language development?

You sure can and it’s highly recommended! The more language a baby hears, the better they will be at acquiring and saying lots of words. To speak, babies must develop their receptive language, meaning they can understand the meaning of a particular word. The best way to help your little one develop this type of language is by constantly speaking to them. So, talk with your baby as much as you can. Tell them what you are doing, narrate their actions, sing, read stories, ask questions, use funny voices, and respond to them and their cues with language. Also, remember to speak slowly and clearly, name every object and person instead of using pronouns, and use lots of repetition.


Some tips for stimulating your baby’s speech

  • Sing to your baby, talk to them and those around them. Even if your baby doesn’t understand the words, they will find that these sounds are used for communication.
  • Play and interact with them by imitating the sounds they are making. Talk to your baby, make eye contact when you talk to them, and smile as they “talk back” to you.
  • Encourage conversation with games and questions about the environment you are in. Even if your little one might not be able to answer, keep talking and responding and describe the objects they point to so that they learn the names of those objects.
  • Use dolls and stuffed animals to create fun and creative dialogues to introduce new words or easy commands.

When do babies say their first word? Communicating milestones in the first year

Even if babies start using word-like sounds when they are around 9 months and say words with meaning until their 11-16 months –or even until their 18 months–, they start developing their communication skills from the time they are born. Here are the milestones they’ll reach through their first year:

  • Up to 3 months: Your baby will turn their head towards the sounds or voices, and may try to repeat those sounds.
  • From 4 to 6 months: Your baby will perceive the communication that happens around them and how people interact with each other through speech. They’ll begin using consonant sounds when babbling and make different kinds of sounds –without giving them a meaning yet.
  • From 7 to 9 months: Your little one will love playing with the sounds they make and reacting to people’s speech. They will also imitate sounds and use an increased number of sounds and syllable combinations.
  • From 10 to 12 months: Your baby will already understand some words, paying attention to commands such as looking at mom when someone asks where she is. They will also use their body to demonstrate their wishes, pointing their finger at what they want and respond to simple directions.
  • Starting at 12 months: Your child will begin to verbalize some words, even if they are “made-up words” or repetitions that they will use to name some objects and foods, such as “nanana” for banana.

If you want a more detailed explanation of when babies say their first word and how language develops month by month make sure to read this article.

What can I expect after my child turns one? 

If your baby is not speaking just yet, don’t worry! If at around 12 months of age your little one uses other forms of communication such as pointing at things or using gestures, they’re doing great! These forms of non-verbal communication are as valid as language and your little one is learning important social skills by doing so. Remember every kid develops at their own pace, but you can always try to help them acquire language by clearly naming the objects they point to!

After their first year, around 13-15 months of age, your baby might follow simple directions, imitate the words and actions you do, and combine sounds and gestures. Then, you can expect your little one to begin saying “no” around 17-20 months of age. This might even become their favorite word! And that’s completely normal.

At 18 months of age, they might say other common words too. But remember that, even though your baby is learning to speak, their pronunciation will not be perfect. They might say “mil” instead of milk or “ba” for “ball”. This is quite normal and expected. With time, their linguistic skills will become refined and their words will become clearer and complete.

Next, at around 19 to 25 months of age, they might speak approximately 50 words, say two-word phrases, and comprehend up to 300 words!

Keep reinforcing your little one’s language and in no time you’ll have a little chatterbox running around the house!

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