About baby language development

Your baby’s communication skills grow dramatically in her first year of life. She will learn how to express herself, respond to you and understand when you communicate with her. All this happens before she says her first real words around her first birthday.

Expressing: baby language development

As part of his language development in the first year, your baby will express himself in many ways.

At 3-4 months, he might:

  • make eye contact with you
  • say ‘ah goo’ or another combination of vowels and consonants.
  • babble and combine vowels and consonants, like ‘ga ga ga ga’, ‘ba ba ba ba’, ‘ma ma ma ma’ and ‘da da da da’.

At 5-7 months, she might:

  • copy some of the sounds and gestures you make, like coughing, laughing, clicking or making ‘raspberries’
  • play with making different sounds, like ‘aaieee’, ‘booo’ and ‘ahh’ at varying (sometimes earsplitting!) pitches and volumes.

At 8-9 months, he might:

  • make longer sequences of sounds, which might sound like normal speech – this is sometimes called the ‘jargon phase’ and might continue when first words begin
  • say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’, although he might not know what these mean yet.

At 10-11 months, she might:

  • communicate with purpose, mainly to request, insist, refuse, reject or greet someone
  • ask for something by pointing, or by looking at a person then at something she wants.

By around 12-14 months, your baby might say a few words and know what they mean, like ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ to refer to mum or dad.

Responding: baby language development

In these months, your baby will respond to you in many ways. For example, he might:

  • make sounds, look excited or go quiet when you talk with him or say his name
  • coo and laugh – for example, while you’re changing his nappy
  • smile and laugh when you play with him
  • enjoy games like peekaboo and other action games
  • use gestures like waving or pointing
  • respond to his own name by looking, widening his eyes, listening or smiling.

Understanding: baby language development

It’s amazing how much your baby understands already – she’s listening and learning all the time, as she makes sense of her world.

For example, in these months, you might find that your baby understands:

  • the word ‘no’ at around 10 months – although he still won’t always do as you say
  • very simple instructions with verbal and visual cues – for example, at around 12 months, when you hold your hand out and say ‘ta’, he’ll give you the toy he’s holding.
Children grow and develop at different rates. The information in this article is offered as a guide only. If you’re at all concerned about your child’s language development, speak with your GP, paediatrician or child and family health nurse.