Speech and language specialists talk about two kinds of language: receptive and expressive. Receptive language is the language your baby understands but does not yet speak out loud in intelligible words. Explicit language refers to the sounds and words your baby uses to communicate.
Between 9 and 12 months, your baby may begin exhibiting these expressive language skills.
Saying ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ When your baby first babbles ‘dada’ or ‘mama’, it’s a big moment for any parent. At this age, your baby isn’t yet connecting the sound of the words to their meanings. For example, when they say ‘dada’ or ‘mama,’ they don’t know they’re referring to their parent. You can help your baby make this connection by pointing to the parent and saying, ‘Yes, that’s Mama, or “Yes, that’s Dada,” when you hear these words. Sometimes, between 11 and 14 months, your baby may intentionally say ‘dada’ or ‘mama’. (6.5 to 11.5 months)
Babbling a string of consonant sounds At around 9 months, the three most accessible sounds for your baby to express are b, m and p—’bababa,’ ‘mamama,’ ‘pppppp.’ A string of babbling comes before your baby can isolate any of these sounds: ‘ba,’ ‘ma,’ ‘p.’ Single-consonant sounds such as ‘ba’ are actually more challenging for your baby to articulate. To support your baby’s language development, repeat theirs babbles.
Babbling a single consonant like ‘ba’ Your baby may start to say ‘ba’ instead of ‘babababa.’ After your baby has been babbling in a string of consonant sounds for a while, you can encourage them to use single syllables by repeating just ‘ba’ back to them. Play peekaboo and say ‘boo!’ or ‘ba!’ when you reveal yourself. (8 to 12 months)
Babbling with inflection As your baby gains control over their breathing and vocal cords, they’ll develop the ability to add different inflections to their sounds the way adults do during conversations. Encourage this skill by exaggerating your own inflection and facial expressions when talking to your baby. (7.5 to 12 months)
When to consult the paediatrician
Talk to your child’s doctor if, at 9 months, your baby isn’t:
- Smiling back at you
- Showing interest in faces, sounds, or moving objects
- Engaging in back-and-forth sounds
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