When your baby starts to babble for the first time it’s a wonderful sound and an important milestone. Her communication development has begun and this not only includes experimenting with sounds but also listening and watching for our reaction. She is learning the rules of language and how to socialize by the back and forth nature of conversation and the way others engage verbally with her. These early months of gibberish babble are when she starts to repeat sounds, assess her responses, and learn verbal and nonverbal ways of expressing her wants.
We generally refer to babbling as the combination of consonant-vowel sounds which your baby will start producing after the initial coos and gurgles. Around 3 to 5 months she’ll begin saying “a-ga” and “a-da” and making simple consonant sounds just by putting her lips together, like “buh buh” and “muh muh”. By 6 months she will likely be belting out strings of consonants like “da-da-da-da ”. It’s fun to imagine that your baby is actually saying “ma-ma” or “da-da” at this point but I’m sorry to report that it will be a while yet before she associates the word sound with its actual meaning.
It is important to note here that babies develop at very different rates, especially around language skills. So while it’s good to be aware and educated on the developmental milestones, try not to compare your baby to others. From personal experience, our daughter was much chattier and far more developed with her speech as a baby and toddler in comparison to our son. If there are warning signs like her speech development has stopped or regressed, she’s not making eye contact or gestures, or she has no words by 15 months old, contact your family doctor for a visit.
The Ontario Government lists the following milestones for communication development that your baby should be achieving by 6 months:
- Turns to source of sounds
- Startles in response to sudden, loud noises
- Makes different cries for different needs - I'm hungry, I'm tired
- Watches your face as you talk
- Smiles and laughs in response to your smiles and laughs
- Imitates coughs or other sounds - "ah", "eh", "buh"
How to Encourage Babble
If you spend even just a few minutes researching language and communication development you’ll discover the importance and benefits of talking to your baby. Right from day one—talk to her. Tell her how cute her little toes are, read her books, narrate the steps as you cook dinner. Then as she begins to babble and “talk” to you, be responsive; if your baby says “ba” while holding a ball, try responding with “yes, that’s right: ball!” An article published last year by Scientific American titled “Unlock the Learning Power of Baby Babbling” goes on to demonstrate the importance of social feedback in language development.
While talking and responding to your baby, keep in mind the following tips to help encourage her babbles:
- Pause after you say something so that she has time to process your words and respond in her own way.
- Make eye contact with her while you’re having a “conversation”.
- Use different tones and syllables when you talk so that she will try to imitate you and learn new sounds.
- Similarly, imitate her babbles.
- Explain your baby's babble to her. If she’s looking at the family dog and says "da da ah" you could say, "There’s the dog, that’s right! Do you think he wants some food?”
Parents and caregivers can effectively influence the vocabulary growth and learning abilities of children. With abundant talking and conversations with your wee one, you provide vital information that advances emotional bonding, social interaction, and language learning skills.