One of the most exciting parts about caring for a baby is witnessing the development of communication. Babies begin communicating in the womb with their mothers in many ways and continue that communication at birth. Various stages of communication development in babies can be observed through the first years of life.
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At birth a baby communicates needs primarily through crying. This alerts the parent or caregiver to needs such as hunger, change of diaper, pain or to be held. Babies also begin to communicate through responding to loud sounds, watching a caregiver’s face, turning towards sound, making noise when talked to and producing sounds related to displeasure and pleasure.
0 to 5 Months
Babies around 2 to 3 months old begin making “cooing” sounds where a consonant is followed by a vowel sound. The baby is able to differentiate between her mother’s voice and that of someone who has a different language. As the communication expands the baby begins to make more sounds playing with vocals, paying attention to music and gesturing through sound or movement when she wants something.
6 to 11 Months
Around 6 months the baby begins to understand and respond to “no” as well as a change in the caregiver’s tone of voice. She may try to repeat sounds from the caregiver, say “baba” or “mama” and communicate more intently what she needs. Baby sign language is often introduced at this age to assist in the communication between parents and babies. Parents can start to demonstrate easy signs for “eat” “milk” and “more” to bridge communication gaps and increase understanding.
12 to 15 Months
By around one year babies can follow their mother’s point and gaze while preferring certain tones of voice. Babbling graduates from repetitive to varied sounds with vocal intonation patterns much like that of adults. Babies of this age become interested in books for at least one minute, attempt to imitate simple words, answer questions with gestures, begin to label people or objects with 1 to 3 words, although pronunciation may be unclear, and begin to follow simple directions given with gestures. Communication also includes being able to apply the label “mama” or “dada” to the right person and say up to 10 different words.
18 to 23 Months
The middle of the second year is a thriving time for a baby. Most babies of this age love being read to, can follow two step directions, can point to specific body parts, can ask for foods by name, begin to make animal sounds and use pronouns such as “mine”. The toddling baby can also often understand verbs such as “eat” and “sleep” and correctly pronounces most vowels while beginning to use other speech sounds. This age is a time of coming together for parent and caregiver as communication develops.
Babies are always observing and growing. Certain stages may not apply to every baby and if a parent has a concern it may be helpful to seek the assistance of a health care professional for evaluation and/or testing. Some babies communicate differently than others and variances are often found somewhere in the range of normal.
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