When do babies start talking?

when do babies start talking

by Emily Gilbert |
Updated on

Every parent can’t wait to hear what their baby’s first word will be, it's a huge baby milestone moment when your baby starts talking. There's lots of ways you can encourage them to speak too.

By the time your baby is about to utter their first ever proper word, you've probably heard plenty of babbling and cooing coming from them which is all preparing them for that huge milestone - their very first word.

Here is everything you need to know about the different stages of baby talk, what to expect, and what to do when you see the signs of speech delay.

When do babies start to talk?

In the first month or two, you will notice them making little sounds. First, it will be crying, then the 'oohing' and 'ahhing', and finally, the babbling. Soon, these sounds will turn into real words, where mama and dada might slip out when you're least expecting it. Around six months old is the most common time for this first word, but it can happen sooner or later than this.

Once they've said one or two, they will begin to pick up more words from you and everyone else around you.

Speech development from 0-6 months:

Crying is your baby's first kind of communication they can do. They will begin to recognise words and the sounds of your voice which will result in them 'babbling' which could be 'mama' or 'dada'.

Whether it’s telling him about your catch-up with friends, explaining the whole plot of The Great Gatsby or simply describing how you’re changing his babygro, speak to your little one constantly.

"Engaging with your baby from birth has an invaluable impact on his speech development," says Libby Hill, a speech and language therapist. "Babies love to listen to your voice, so talk, sing and coo, making eye contact as you go."

Your baby can’t focus properly until around one or two months, so make sure to hold him close as you chat.

If you're in the early stage of them just beginning to vocalise, the NHS advises these techniques on how to get them to talk at this stage:

• Talk in a sing-song voice

• Hold your baby close and look at them

• Chat about what you are doing

• Sing

• Repeat the sounds your baby makes back to them

Speech development from 6-12 months:

At this point, your baby is experimenting with their sounds and noises. To ensure their babbling continues, it's recommended to talk and read to them. They will learn from mimicking you, the same way they learn to smile and walk.

From 6 to 12 months, your little one will begin to pick up on your words and expressions. To keep this going, the NHS also advises to do the following:

• Name and point out things you can both see, for example: "Look, a cat".

• Start looking at books with your baby. You don't have to read the words on the page, just talk about what you can see.

• Only offer a dummy when it's time for sleep. It's hard to learn to talk with a dummy in your mouth.

• Play "peek-a-boo" and "round and round the garden".

Signs your baby's ready to talk

From the moment your newborn lets out their first cry, they're talking to you – and gauging what their cries mean is just a case of getting to know them.

They’ll also use eye contact and gurgling as part of their language development. As the weeks go on, you’ll notice your baby becomes more vocal, with cries and gurgles giving way to a more bird-like cooing sound.

"This is a sign the muscles of his tongue and mouth are getting stronger, and he’s beginning to understand the link between making sounds and getting a reaction," says Libby.

The months are passing by and you're beginning to wonder when your precious little one is going to start blabbering away, but also, how you can get them to talk too.

All babies are born with the ability to recognise the 150 different sounds that make up every language in the world. Your baby also has impressive memory skills, meaning he can say a word back to you that you might have said weeks earlier.

What if my baby's not speaking?

From baby's first steps to first words, we're all guilty of comparing our baby to others. But every child reaches the key development milestones at different times.

If your baby isn't attempting to make any sounds, eye contact, or babbling between 6 and 9 months old, it's advised to bring it up with a doctor. It could be that they have a speech delay or a hearing problem.

"Of course we shouldn’t worry or compare what other people’s babies and children are doing – although every parent does it!" says parenting psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer, author of book Play: Fun Ways To Help Your Child Develop In The First Five Years (Vermilion).

"Parents worry hugely about when their children reach milestones, especially compared to their little friends. But one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given is to write down a reminder in your diary to worry about it in, say, three months. So if your little one’s speech seems slow compared to your friend’s baby, write it down and then don’t think about it. When the three months is up, revaluate things.

"Children develop at vastly different rates and you’ll be amazed how much things change. If there is still a delay, see your GP. This way, you’re dealing with potential problems without stressing about them every day.

As for speech, Dr Gummer recommends the following to help your little one along: "Don’t second-guess what they want – instead, make them ‘ask’ for it. For example, rather than giving them a beaker of water when you know they’re about to become thirsty, point to it and say, “Do you want your water?” Over time they’ll learn to ask for things, rather than never having to because it’s always available.

"The same goes for when babies start crawling and walking. Put toys slightly out their reach. Not so much they get upset, but just as gentle encouragement."

Dr Gummer says it’s also worth remembering that while you may look at other babies and worry that they’re talking, walking or sleeping better than yours, other parents will be looking at your child and thinking the same.


If you've noticed that your child is stuttering, there is no need to worry,  as this is completely normal while their speaking is quickly developing.

However, keep an eye on it. If it continues until they reach 4-years-old, or if you can see them tensing their jaw, talk to their doctor about it.

About the experts

Libby Hill qualified as a speech and language therapist from University College, London in 1986. She is a member of the Royal College of Speech and language therapists and ASLTIP and is registered with the Health Professions Council. Libby set up Small Talk Speech and language therapy in 2007 which has grown to include speech and language therapists, SLT assistants, early years practitioners and counsellors with access to Clinical Psychology and Educational Psychology. She set up Smart Talkers Pre-School communication groups in 2009 which are franchised in the UK and abroad. In 2011 she created S & L World, the global bulletin for Speech and language professionals which she continues to edit. Her latest projects include a website to provide speech therapy materials and being consultant speech and language therapist to Channel 4s ‘Born naughty?’.

Dr Amanda Gummer ran the research consultancy FUNdamentals for 10 years before combining that with the Good Toy Guide, and the Good App Guide to create Fundamentally Children, the UK’s leading source of expert, independent advice on child development and play, supporting children’s industries with research, insight and endorsement.

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