One of my favourite commercials featured parents who set up cameras in their home, trying to catch the first words that their child would say. Happily, baby’s first word was caught on tape and shared with the absent parent, who rushed home to cajole same words out of baby, only baby was having none of it.
The moment babies string their first words together is such a magical and key developmental milestone, but the honest truth is, I have no idea what the first words my children said, but I like to think, it was “mama”. And I have my reasons. I spent quite a substantial amount of time taking care of them, and secondly, I was the one who carried them for over 30 weeks and gave birth to them, so yes, they should say mama first.
One thing that I was able to capture, though, was a video of my older son walking. That was in the early days when he started learning how to walk. I think, that was his first time in a really open space and as he put one foot in front of the other, his mouth spread in a big smile at the feat he was achieving. I can never forget that smile and he just sort of picked up speed. He was literally racing, before he could actually walk. I remember running after him like crazy, trying to ensure he didn’t fall down. He didn’t, but his smile was so contagious. LOL!!! The kind of things that bring pleasures to babies, it is just so simple.
It’s the same thing with your baby’s first word. Your child might become fixated on his or her first words; because they know it gets a reaction from momma or daddy. So, if it’s “mama” then get ready for some showers of mama. And it if it’s “No!” just pray baby outgrows it soon, because everything is going to get a no.
When do babies hit the talking milestone?
Starting at birth, babies are listening closely to the words and sounds all around them and beginning to decipher their meanings. By about 6 months, your baby will most likely understand individual words, such as his name, and the names of other people and familiar objects.
As soon as baby is able to make sense of some of the words he/she hears daily, then they are ready start to experimenting with making sounds of his own.
This experimenting starts for most babies between 9 and 14 months. Some perfectly normal babies don’t say a recognizable word until their 18 month, whereas some babies begin to communicate in words or word-like sounds (“ba-ba” “da” or “da-da” as early as 7 months.
Moms, sorry to break you hearts, but studies have revealed that it is a lot easier for babies to say “Da-da” than “ma-ma.” It’s unfair sha, with all the work we do but hey, as long as baby is talking, we can roll with it.
Below is what you should know about baby’s first word:
Babies talk at their own pace:
Generally babies utter their first words at 11 to 14 months, when the tongue and lips gain dexterity and the brain starts to match up objects with names. But that is not a guarantee that your child, or even every child, follows that same timeline. So, cut your baby some slack time. Every child reaches this milestone at his own pace.
Your baby is absorbing everything you’re saying months before she can speak
Like earlier pointed out, babies start learning even before they start exhibiting signs of learning.
So, if all you have been getting for your endless chatter is a blank stare and a little drool in return, keep this in mind: your baby’s brain is processing everything you’re saying months before she/he is able to say anything in return.
Researchers recently found that babies can tell the difference between the sounds of different languages, and at about 8 months they really start to focus on their native tongue.
The malleable nature of babies’ brain simply shows the importance of the role of parents in the lives of their children.
Your child will start to speak in short sentences at around 18 months
From the stage of one words, word-like sounds and utter gibberish, your child will start to speak in sentences, albeit short ones. Between the ages of 18 and 24 months, your not-so-little baby will start to string two-word sentences together, making communication a bit easier but still not enough.
At about 2 years of age, your little one will start asking short questions (“Go out?”), and by 3, he’ll know a word for pretty much everything and will have loads (and loads!) of questions.
Speech in boys and girl differ:
By 16 months, most baby girls will be able to say a handful of words—an average of 50 for girls and 30 for boys.
A research of children aged 8 -30 months showed that because baby girls are more into watching faces and listening, then girls start using gestures like pointing or waving bye-bye earlier than their brothers, and they play games.
Girls understand what you’re saying before boys do, start speaking earlier (at around 12 months versus 13 to 14 months for boys), and will continue to talk more through the toddler years. Although girls remain somewhat ahead through toddlerhood, the gap does begin to narrow, and at 2 ½, both boys and girls have 500 words, more or less.
To develop your child’s speech, repetition is key:
Saying things not once, but twice, singing the same songs over and over, pointing out landmarks every time you pass them on the street…all that repetition, tiring as it may seem to you, is incredibly interesting to your little one, since it helps reinforce your child’s growing understanding of how a particular sound attaches to a particular thing. In other words, repetition helps your baby determine what individual words really mean.
These are some of the things that determine a child’s first speech and even subsequent ones.
Cheers to the magical first word.
Join the conversation with any of our TTC and Pregnancy Groups here