How your baby’s speech develops

Your baby’s hearing starts to develop at around 16 weeks of pregnancy and as they continue to grow, they will start to recognise familiar voices and sounds. 

They will start to communicate with you from the very first moment they’re born, initially by crying and will start to understand what you’re saying to them long before they are able to talk. 

Teaching your baby to talk is one of the most important key life skills you will give as a parent or carer.

When your baby is born, you’ll notice they make lots of different noises and sounds which will give you clues as to what they may need. 

Speech cues to notice from 6-8 weeks old

  • Your baby has a range of different cries for different needs
  • Smile in response to interaction from yourself or significant others 
  • Recognise and are soothed by parents or significant other people’s voices
  • Watch your face whilst you are talking
  • Copy some facial expressions you use, such as sticking your tongue out
  • Will be startled by loud noises
  • Vocalise, start cooing and use ooh’s and aah’s

As your baby continues to develop, you’ll notice around the age of 4 months they are starting to do more. 

Speech at 4 months old

  • Turn to sounds when they hear them 
  • Are more interactive and will start giggling and laughing 
  • Make noises to gain your attention such as squealing
  • Make noises to themselves such as gurgling

From 6 months of age your baby will be starting to do even more. You may notice more and more changes. 

Speech at 6 months old

  • Be increasingly more vocal
  • Babble and using syllables like ba-ba, ga ga and da-da. Don’t get upset if your baby does not use ma-ma straight away 
  • Respond to their name when you call them
  • Understand very simple words that you use such as bye-bye

As parents and carers you have a crucial role in developing your baby’s speech.

Top tips for helping baby's speech

  • Spending time with your baby and holding them close to your face when you talk to them 
  • Copy the sounds they make, this helps them learn how to participate in conversations 
  • Tell your baby what you’re doing and describe the environment around you 
  • Talk to your baby in a sing-song voice to keep your baby interested
  • Sing songs and nursery rhymes, read books and play with them

Using a dummy

If you’re using a dummy, try to discontinue that from around 6 months as the benefits associated with dummy use start to decline around this time.

Associated risks with continuing to use a dummy

  • Dental problems
  • Increased risk of middle ear infections
  • Stomach and mouth infections
  • Speech problems due to reduced opportunity for babbling and copying the sounds you make, therefore don’t let your baby babble when they have their dummy in their mouth

If your baby continues to use a dummy it’s recommended that they only use it for sleep.