How Does Speech Develop in Babies?

Language begins to develop prior to birth, when babies hear the parents’ voices in utereo. When a baby, who has just been born, is placed between their mother and a stranger, and they both speak to the baby, she will turn towards the recognisable voice of her Mum – amazing!


From birth to 6 weeks, this recognition of both Mum and Dad’s voices continues, and the baby responds to sounds and voices, but aren’t yet able to localise them. Babies have different cries to indicate their need for food, sleep, or to be burped! When parents are able to correctly identify these cries, then they can quickly settle the baby .

You can read more about this, in a previous article I wrote: 

You can help by: Look at your baby and talk with her. Smile at her. Surround her with gentle, pleasant sounds, and avoid sudden loud noises, which may startle her.

Between 6 weeks and 3 ½ months babies will now turn their heads towards the sound, and will look at their parents when they talk. They begin to make ‘cooing’ sounds eg ‘aaah’, ‘eeee’ or ‘oooo’. It’s also the time when ‘conversation’ starts – have you noticed how a baby of this age will ‘talk’, then stop? If you speak softly back to them, they will ‘listen’ and then respond. It’s a conversation with no words, but with sounds and eye contact!

You can help by: ‘Conversing’ with your baby, allowing him time to respond to you. Maintain eye contact as either of you speak. Make the same sounds as your baby does, as well as ‘regular’ talking. Tell him about his world and what is happening, as you bath him or dress him.


From 3 ½ months to 5 ½ months babies are more able to locate a sound eg over to the left and up. They react when hearing their name, and they enjoy listening to the sounds they themselves make – often squealing with delight. They show pleasure by gurgling and cooing. It’s also the time of blowing ‘raspberries’ with lots of dribble involved!

You can help by: Provide a variety of toys which make different sounds – bells, simple shaker toys and by playing different types of music. Use his name frequently so he gets used to hearing it. Sing simple nursery rhymes – it does not matter about the quality of your voice – it’s about the baby and you sharing a moment through sound! Continue to mimic his sounds, as well as using ‘regular’ words. If the baby wakes happily and is ‘talking’ to himself, let him have that time alone, to be able to listen to his own voice and sounds.


In the time from 5 ½ months to 8 months babies now attempt to mimic sounds, and they experiment with squealing. They start to associate often repeated words with people or objects, and continue to enjoy blowing raspberries! By 8 months babies are beginning to combine sounds eg ‘ba ba’ or ‘da da’, and will repeat one often, before starting on the next one. They are learning verbal and non-verbal forms of communication, eg facial expressions and gestures.

You can help by: When she is playing with a book and seems to be looking at it, name the picture for her. Similarly when she is staring at household object (eg the fan, or the clock), label it for her. When you wave, as someone leaves, and say: ‘bye bye’ she will begin to associate waving with a person leaving. Say rhymes or sing songs which have repeated phrases or words.


Next week we will continue looking at language development – from 8 months onwards.


Happy Parenting, Sonja

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