Most babies will say their first words between 10-15 months old. The first word is often “mama” or “dada”. However, the age range varies quite a bit from baby to baby. Some babies may say their first word as early as 6 months, while others may not say a recognizable word until closer to 18-24 months. There are a few key factors that influence when a baby will start talking.
When Do Babies Start Talking?
Here is a quick overview of when most babies will reach common speech milestones:
– Babbling sounds like “mama”, “dada”
– Responds to own name
– Understands simple words and phrases
– Says first words like “mama”, “dada”, “hi”, “bye”
– Has a vocabulary of 2-3 words
– Copies gestures and sounds
– vocabulary of 10-20 words
– Says short phrases like “all gone”
– Points to body parts when asked
– vocabulary of about 50 words
– Uses 2-word phrases like “drink milk”
– Points to pictures when named
As you can see, there is a large range of what is considered normal. Some babies will start talking earlier, while others talk later. Most babies will say their first word of “mama” or “dada” sometime between 10-15 months.
Why Do Some Babies Talk Earlier Than Others?
There are a few key factors that influence when a baby starts talking:
Babies with normal hearing tend to say their first words earlier than those with hearing impairments. Getting a baby’s hearing tested can identify any issues early.
Babies need coordination of their lips, tongue, palate, jaw, and vocal cords to form sounds. Some babies develop these skills faster.
Babies mature at different rates cognitively. More advanced cognitive skills allow a baby to mimic sounds sooner.
Babies immersed in language by caregivers often start talking earlier. The more words a baby hears, the faster they build their vocabulary.
Some evidence suggests a genetic component to early language development. First-born children tend to talk earlier.
Tips for Encouraging Your Baby to Say Mama
While each baby develops at their own pace, there are some things parents can do to promote early language:
- Respond to a baby’s coos and babbling, this helps build their communication skills
- Talk, read, and sing to your baby often to increase the words they hear
- Use repetitive sounds and gestures when interacting with your baby
- Make eye contact and get on baby’s level when communicating
- Use exaggerated facial expressions and gestures as visual cues
- Name objects to encourage word association
- Avoid too much screen time, babies learn best from real interactions
While it can be exciting to hear your baby’s first words, try not to worry too much about exactly when they start talking. Focusing on building early communication skills is what matters most. If you have concerns about your baby’s speech development, talk to their pediatrician.
When to See a Speech-Language Pathologist
Most healthy babies without risk factors will say their first words by 15 months. But if your baby shows any of the following signs by 18 months, it is a good idea to have their speech evaluated:
- No words or babbling by 12 months
- Does not respond to their name
- Makes very few sounds or gestures to communicate
- Relies mostly on crying to express needs
- Has difficulty eating and swallowing
- Has a family history of speech disorders
- Has signs of hearing impairment
Early intervention by a speech-language pathologist can help identify any developmental delays in communication skills. The earlier language disorders are caught, the better the outcome.
The Importance of Mama and Dada as First Words
It is a special moment when a baby says their first word, especially if it is “mama” or “dada”. Here are some reasons why these words tend to come first:
- Easier sounds – The m, d, and a sounds are some of the earliest that babies can pronounce.
- High exposure – Babies hear their parents’ names constantly in daily interactions.
- Positive associations – Babies associate these words with comfort, food, and nurturing.
- Social motivation – Babies realize these words attract attention and bonding.
- Cognitive recognition – Babies start recognizing their parents and associating names.
Saying “mama” or “dada” shows your baby is starting to communicate intentionally. They are making an association between a word and an object. This foundation in social communication paves the way for more complex language development.
Milestones After First Words
Saying those first simple words is an important milestone, but just the start of your baby’s language development. Here is a look at what is typically next:
10-20 words by 15 months
Babies will build a small vocabulary of their first words. Common examples include “hi”, “bye”, “dog”, “up”, and “bear”. They understand many more words than they can say.
10-20 words by 18 months
Your baby’s vocabulary will continue expanding rapidly in the coming months. Their speech may be hard to understand, but they can communicate simple ideas.
50+ words by 24 months
By age 2, toddlers often have a vocabulary of 50+ words. Their motor skills allow them to put together two-word phrases like “drink milk”. Expect lots of repetition as they practice new language skills.
Short sentences by 30 months
By 2.5 years old, toddlers can communicate in short sentences of 3-4 words. Their grammar is simple, but they can express needs, wants, and ideas. Language bursts lead to rapid new learning.
While kids develop language skills in their own timing, watch for any regression or sudden loss of language ability. That can signal a problem requiring further evaluation.
Most babies will proudly say their first word of “mama” or “dada” sometime between 10-15 months of age. But there is quite a range in early language development that depends on the individual child. While you can encourage progress with plenty of language exposure and interaction, every baby learns to talk at their own pace. If you have concerns about missed milestones, be sure to talk to the pediatrician. With supportive parenting and enriched language experiences, your baby will be chattering away before you know it!