Although it may be hard to believe, it’s time to talk about talking! Your baby is likely making babbling sounds and delighting you with laughs and gurgling sounds. In about six months or less, you can expect these noises to turn into a few simple words, such as dada, mama, dog, or hi.
You may also notice your six-month-old is showing signs of recognizing greater speech patterns when you communicate with him or her. For example, your baby may seem to start recognizing when you use his or her name, even in conversation with others.
Speech, language, and hearing milestones that typically take place between four and six months include:
- Babbling in a way that sounds like speech and may involve different sounds.
- Following sounds with his or her eyes, such as when you are moving a noisy toy across the room.
- Recognizing that toys make sounds.
- Paying attention to music.
- Seeming to respond to and notice changes in the sound of your voice, such as when you are saying “no” versus “good.”
Speech and language milestones are similar to other developmental milestones: some babies may approach them faster, while others take their time. If you are concerned about milestones, it’s always a good idea to ask your pediatrician.
How you can help develop your baby’s language skills
There are many ways you can encourage your child’s developing language skills. Perhaps the easiest one is just by talking to your baby — a lot. By interacting and explaining things in conversational vocabulary, such as “Time to warm up your bathwater!” or “Let’s get ready to go for a walk,” you will be helping to teach your baby words and to improve language skills.
Other ways you can help build your child’s speaking abilities include:
- Listening to music together and singing to your baby.
- Taking him or her on “field trips” to explore new sights and sounds.
- Reading to your baby or taking your baby to story times at local libraries and bookstores.
- Counting items or identifying colors.
- Responding to your baby’s attempts to communicate with you.
While it can sometimes feel silly to speak to your child constantly, this is one of the best ways you can help her build speech skills.
What if my child’s speech seems delayed?
If your child doesn’t seem to be meeting speech and language milestones, talk to his or her pediatrician. There could be multiple explanations for what might be causing a potential delay. One is that your child simply needs more time to develop his or her speech. If your pediatrician has concerns, the doctor may refer your child to a speech-language pathologist. This type of health professional specializes in determining if a language delay exists and whether it involves expressive language (difficulty expressing thoughts) or receptive language (trouble understanding what people are saying). This can be the case for a child whose hearing may be affected.
A speech-language specialist can conduct hearing and speech tests. This health expert can often make recommendations regarding ways to develop your child’s speech or refer you for further evaluations, if needed. Additional experts your child may see include an audiologist, which is a professional that specializes in hearing loss, or a developmental psychologist, who can evaluate an infant and/or child’s overall development.