Skip to main content

When do babies start talking? Should you be concerned if yours isn’t?

Learn why baby babbling is music to a parent's ears

Cute baby boy babbling with mom

Baby’s first year is such an exciting time. As new parents, we are amazed at all those milestones, like rolling over and baby’s first smile. One milestone many parents anxiously await is baby’s first words. Will it be “mama” or “dada?” The more important question, though, may be, “When do babies start talking?”

A baby’ speech development actually begins at birth. The sounds they hear, including their parents, talking is a vital step in speech development. So, when should your baby be saying those exciting first words, and should you be worried if yours isn’t talking yet?

When do babies start talking?

As with all of those memorable milestones, when a baby begins to talk falls within a range. Most babies will say that treasured first word somewhere between 12 and 18 months. Once that first word comes out, it won’t be long before baby is putting small words together like “up ma.”

Speech development is a lengthy process starting at birth. Crying is actually the first form of verbal communication. Babies cry to tell you what they need. Since babies are listening, they learn to associate the sounds around them early on with things like barks from the family dog. By 2 months old, most little ones will experiment with their lips, tongue, and palate, making those adorable cooing and gurgling sounds. These sweet sounds are actually the building blocks to baby’s first words.

Baby babbling

From 4 to 6 months of age, those cute cooing and gurgling sounds will turn into babbling. Baby babbling is a major milestone in a child’s language development. Babbling is when baby is making sounds that don’t seem to correspond to any words. Like the cooing and gurgling stages, baby is trying out different sounds. While baby babbling may sound like nonsense to adults, it’s actually an important developmental stage for your child’s language skills.

The baby babbling stage is where you may hear those ma-ma and da-da sounds. Babies are listening to you, and they do try to imitate the words you say even if it’s not coming out the same. So, if your baby is babbling “do” at the dog, finish the word. Parents and siblings are a baby’s first role model when it comes to speech.

From babbling to words

The period from 7 to 12 months is another substantial one for baby’s developing language skills. You should start to notice baby making repetitive sounds like “ga-ga.” Parents may also notice babies making sounds and pointing to something like “ca-ca” for the kitty. Babies might begin stringing sounds together for the same object, too, such as saying “ba-ba” each time they have a bottle.

As baby is learning to associate sounds with objects, be sure to keep repeating the words. Say cat when the baby is petting the family cat or blocks when you’re playing with blocks together on the floor. Hearing language through talking, music, and reading books helps babies develop their language skills.

What if baby isn’t babbling?

Remember, a baby’s milestones are accomplished during a range. Most babies hit the babbling stages somewhere within the 4 to 6 months age range. If your baby isn’t babbling by the sixth-month checkup, ask your pediatrician. If your baby hit the cooing and gurgling stage a little later, then the babbling stage may begin a bit later, as well. Always err on the side of caution and ask.

Smiling parents talking to their baby

How to help baby start talking

The first thing to remember when waiting for that special first word is not to stress. When you stress, so does your little one. You can’t force your baby to say “mama” or “dada.” It will happen when your baby is ready. You can help your child with their language development by filling the house with music, talk, and fun. Babies are like sponges and are taking everything in. So, talk and sing to your baby. Read books in the bathtub, before naps, and at bedtime.

When your baby is cooing and babbling, listen, even if it doesn’t make sense. That’s how they learn to listen. Don’t compare your baby to others, but if you are concerned, talk to your pediatrician. During the first year, you’ll be seeing the doctor every three months for well visits. Those visits are the perfect time to ask about your baby’s speech development if you’re worried.

Editors' Recommendations

Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
If you love Disney, these are the motivational quotes to complete your nursery decor
Decorating the nursery or redoing a bedroom? These motivational quotes for kids will fit right in
A crib with nursery decor hanging above it

Decorating a nursery for the first time, redoing a kid's room with a new theme, or wanting art added to your child's bedroom? Motivational quotes are always the way to go. If you're stuck with where to pull inspiration from, how about your kiddo's favorite Disney characters? Disney-loving families will find the perfect motivational quotes for kids to help keep their focus on the positive side of things while leaning on them as room decor.
To remind your child it's all about their attitude
A child is never too young to learn how to work out a problem on their own, and it's never too early to help them have a positive attitude when working through an issue. These Disney characters have the right attitude.
"The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem." -- Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)
"The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work." -- Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)
"You control your destiny -- you don’t need magic to do it. And there are no magical shortcuts to solving your problems." -- Merida (Brave)
To remind your kid they are the only one of them out there
We all think our child is the most precious creature alive. And while we are all correct, hang one of these quotes in their nursery or bedroom to remind them daily.
"Your identity is your most valuable possession. Protect it." -- Elastigirl (The Incredibles)
"I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then." -- Alice (Alice in Wonderland)

To remind them that taking a risk is always worth it
From the first step to the first day of school to the first activity they want to sign up for, every risk your child takes is worth it. Most children love risk-taking anyway, so foster that fearlessness by hanging these quotes up around their room.

Read more
What is implantation bleeding like? Facts you should know about when and why this happens
Implantation bleeding vs. period bleeding: Find out the difference
A menstrual pad being held on a pink background

Heavy implantation bleeding isn't typical, but we have the answers on what is normal for implantation bleeding. What is the difference between implantation bleeding vs. period bleeding and other questions you have about implantation will all be addressed, so that you can understand what this relatively uncommon phenomenon is like.

What is implantation bleeding like?
Implantation bleeding is very light bleeding, similar to a period (in the sense that it comes out of the vaginal canal from the uterus) that happens earlier than a period would come and lasts less than two days. It can be light pink or rust brown, but it's not usually the bright or dark red that period blood can be. Implantation doesn't have any clots and can be like spotting, a light flow, or just one or two smears of blood.
Implantation bleeding is just one possible symptom of implantation, so cramping, backaches, nausea, mood swings, sore breasts, bloating, fatigue, or headaches can accompany it.

Read more
Why your kids should do their own spring cleaning – none of you will regret their little helping hands
Everyone benefits when the kids help with spring cleaning
Little girl cleaning her home

There are two types of people in this world: those who love spring cleaning and those who absolutely dread it. Let's face it, spring cleaning can be a daunting task because there's so much to tackle. Not only do you need to do your regular, everyday cleaning, but when it comes to spring cleaning, you also want to do a deep clean, declutter, and organize everything in sight. 

Quite honestly, it can be a lot for one or two people to take on. This is why it's important to include all members of the family when it comes time to roll up your sleeves. Involving all members of the family in spring cleaning, including your children, means you can divide the work and get things done faster. You'll also teach your kids a little something about responsibility and teamwork at the same time. Yes, those anti-cleaning cutie pies of yours should be an active part of this annual affair. 

Read more