Early Speech Development in Infants

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | March 2nd, 2016

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Often times, parents of a newborn will wonder which sounds will first be heard by their baby and how to help produce these sounds.  From the time a newborn baby reaches three months and starts making their first sounds to when a baby is 12 months and forms their first word, parents can expect to hear a wide variety of noises and sounds.

In this blog, I will address these milestones as well as the activities parents can perform to help their newborn progress.  Please note, these milestones are meant to be generalized.  There is no reason to be alarmed if your baby is slower at hitting certain milestones.  At the end of this article, I will list certain “red flag” milestones that may indicate your newborn needs to be evaluated.

At three months, your baby will begin to make sounds.  The first sounds you can expect to hear are vowel sounds when your baby is cooing and making pleasure sounds (“oo,” “ah,” “uh,” “oh,” “ee”).  At this time, your baby will also begin producing distinctive cries when they are hungry, wet, etc.  They will then begin producing strings of vowels with varying intonation.

When your baby begins babbling at four to six months, the first consonants they are likely to produce are “bilabial” sounds, produced with their lips (p, b, m).  These sounds are learned first because they are easily seen by your baby and fun to make.  This is also around the time you will first see your baby laugh.

At seven months, your baby will produce “reduplicated syllables” – repeating the same sounds over and over again (“babababa”).  Your baby will first produce these sounds in play, without any communicative intent.  You should then begin to notice your baby making sounds to gain attention.  Furthermore, around this time your baby will begin imitating more sounds and “talking” when others are talking.  You can prompt your baby to make sounds playing some basic games in which you take turns making sounds.

Here are some of my favorite games and songs for babies at this age:

  • Peek-a-boo (hiding behind hands, blanket, napkin, etc.)
  • Patty-cake
  • This Little Piggy
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Old MacDonald

It is also important to read with your baby.  It is not necessary to read every word in a book.  Simply talking about the pictures and pointing to things in the book will help.  You can prompt the production of sounds through making silly and nonsensical sounds while you play (“wee!” or “uh-oh!”).  You can also prompt your baby to imitate environmental sounds like animal sounds (“quack-quack!” and “moo!”) and transportation sounds (“vroom!” or “urch!”).

It is important to remember not only to prompt your baby to imitate your sounds, but imitate your baby’s productions as well.  Face-to-face time with your baby is important and using a “sing-song” tone with lots of rising and falling intonation will help your baby attend better to your sounds.

By your baby’s first birthday, you can anticipate their first word, typically a word they use often (e.g., “mama,” or “hi”).

As a precaution, if your baby is not making any sounds by six months, or no consonant sounds (p, b, m) by ten months, an evaluation by a doctor is appropriate.  By 15 months, a baby should be saying their first word.  If this is not the case, an evaluation should be sought.

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