How to encourage your baby’s speech development

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From birth to one year your baby will go from crying to cooing to talking. Those are amazing milestones for your baby to accomplishment in such a short period of time as he develops his speech and language skills, but keep in mind that these stages of your baby’s development are broad and that no baby will fall exactly within the timeframe of these expected milestones.

Please be aware of your own behavior – never, ever, talk ‘baby talk‘ yourself. Speak normally, using your normal tones, as this will help your baby learn much more quickly than if you start speaking baby-talk yourself; all you will do is hinder his speech progress.

Your baby will understand speech long before he begins to speak. From birth he will look at your face and listen to your voice. He will make a small range of noises that will start to mean something to you, such as his way of exhibiting hunger or pain. These noises will include crying and certain sounds that your baby makes while he is breathing. When your baby is feeding he will make sucking noises and sounds of contentment.

Your baby’s cry is an important way for him to communicate. Crying lays the foundation for speech as your baby learns to control the air that comes from his lungs and learns how to use his vocal cords. Crying is your baby’s way of telling you that he is hungry, upset or cold. By listening carefully to your baby and responding to his cries you are letting him know that he is important. This is how your baby first learns to communicate with you.

Your two-month old baby will start to pay more and more attention to his world. He will be fascinated by the sound of your voice and will follow it around the room with great concentration. The different tones of your voice will keep him interested for short periods of time. Your baby will respond with a variety of cooing sounds, vowel-like sounds and sometimes some consonant sounds such as a k. You will find that your baby has quite a collection of cooing sounds that he uses to communicate with you as well as discovering how to use the sound of his own voice.

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Talk to your baby as much as possible to encourage her cooing response. Look directly into your babys eyes to show that you are listening. This helps to establish signals of communication between the two of you.

At three months your baby will recognize your voice and will turn towards you when he hears you talking. He will be starting to laugh out loud and will often startle himself until he learns that he is the one making the sound. He will squeal when he is happy and content, again often startling himself as he learns his own abilities.

Continue to talk to your baby as much as possible as well as singing to him and reading him stories. The more you communicate with him and let him know that you are listening the more he will attempt to communicate with you.

At four months your baby is learning more and more ways to communicate with you. He will be smiling spontaneously at everything around him and his soft babbling will have an almost singsong sound to it, often ranging into a high pitch that delights him as he learns to like the sound of his own voice. There will be lots of repetition to the sounds that your baby makes. Respond to your baby’s oohs and ahhs with your own voice tones. This is your chat time with your baby and you should take advantage of these chat times as he learns what conversation is all about. Your baby may also be starting to let you know when he is not in the mood for talking with you. He will turn his head in the other direction and may put his arm over his face. He may be showing signs of anger or frustration by crying out, especially if something is taken away from him.

At five months your baby is becoming better at communicating and he may start to mimic sounds and gestures which allows him to express his needs. He’ll be able to let you know if he is happy or sad; when he wants attention he will start to babble until you respond to him. If you respond to his cooing, laughing sounds he’ll repeat his noises often because he knows that he can get your attention this way. Your baby will now be watching your mouth when you talk. If you talk to him from across the room he will be able to locate you easily. He is also learning to control his vocal sounds as watches your response to his sounds.

At six months your baby is now using consonant-vowel combinations. He has discovered his image in the mirror and is probably having conversations with his new playmate. Your baby’s language is becoming much more precise.

There are several ways that you can help him to continue to develop his language skills by:

  • Speaking clearly, slowly, and accurately.
  • Identify objects as you say their names.
  • Use short sentences.
  • Use repetition when singing songs and nursery rhymes; the repetition will help him to learn.
  • Read as often as you can to your baby, asking questions about the pictures in the books so that your baby is interacting with you.
  • Never talk at your baby, let him respond in his own way.

Seven months and your baby continues to learn how to use his language skills. He has learned how to wave goodbye and may accompany his wave with babbling sounds. He can say mama or dada or variations of these.

Eight months and your baby is playing games such as pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo. Even though he cannot speak the words that belong to these games, he can babble and talk to himself. Your baby understands what the word no means, even though he doesnt like hearing it.

After nine months continue to play lots of games with your baby especially those games that involve singing. Your baby is responding to small sentences such as ‘take mommy’s hand’.

Ten to twelve months and your baby’s language skills continue to develop. He will use his own gibberish language to interact with you and have a conversation. Your baby can now say short, one syllable words such as ‘bye’ and continues to talk in his conversational gibberish language.

There are several ways that you can help your baby as he learns and practices his language skills:

  • Talk often to your baby using simple words to identify objects in his life. Name trees, numbers, colors, and animals as you take your baby for a walk. Use your babys name as often as you can so he starts to recognize it.
  • Be patient and listen when your baby talks to you and respond to his talk in a positive way, often repeating one or two of the words he has used correctly.
  • Introduce concepts to your baby, such as the big dog or the little mouse.
  • Give your baby time to get his words out; don’t be tempted to complete sentences for him.
  • Continue to read to your baby as much as possible. Reading should be part of your daily routine.

At the one year mark your baby’s language skills will continue to progress as he discovers more and more about the world around him. Before you know it your baby will be talking non-stop as he masters his language and vocal skills.

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