Babbling

Over the first nine months of life, your baby will start to communicate with you through babbling.

From four months old, they’ll start to gurgle and coo when you speak to them. You’ll learn that each sound has its own meaning, such as hunger or tiredness.

By six months, they’ll be making a range of sounds, including soft vowels like “moo”, “goo”, “aroo”, “adah” and a laugh-like noise.

At nine months old, they’ll start to enjoy babbling and will be making more complex sounds, such as “bababa” or “dadada”. They’ll also start to copy other sounds like lip-smacking or coughing. These sounds are the basis of language and, over time, will be become short words, such as “mama” and “dada”.

There are a number of different ways to encourage your baby to start and develop babbling, including:

  • Using a varied and fun tone, talk or sing to your baby about the things they or you are doing throughout the day, for example:
    • Spend time in close face to face interaction with your baby
    • Use your voice to gain your baby's attention, make your voice fun to listen to
    • Responding to their behaviour, e.g. “you want that one” when they reach for something
    • Describing your behaviour, e.g. “time to change your nappy”, or saying “up” when you pick them up
    • Drawing their attention to external noises, e.g. “that’s the dog barking, woof woof”
    • Copying the sounds and gestures your baby is making to encourage them to repeat them
    • Make new noises that they can copy, focusing on vowels (a, e, i, o, u) and early consonants (b, m, n, d, g)
  • Try to use the same word when you describe a behaviour or noise to help them learn how and when to use it
  • Singing nursery rhymes with pictures or simple actions, e.g. Old Macdonald and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and pausing to give them time to join in
  • Playing games like peek-a-boo or blowing raspberries on their stomach
  • Making time to read children’s books and use sound effects e.g. 'beep beep' for a car or 'ahhhh!' for a teddy bear. Make sure you give them time to join in with each page or noise
  • Counting out loud while you go up and down the stairs as the rhythmic movement can encourage them to join in
  • If using a dummy for comfort, make sure it is not in reach in waking hours, as using it may limit the opportunity to play with sounds

Sounds are learnt and used through copying and repetition. You might find that your baby needs to hear the sounds and ideas many times over before they start to join in. It is difficult to know which sounds they might respond to first, so try a few ideas from those suggested to see which appeal to them.

If you’ve tried all of these techniques and you’re still not seeing any improvement after four months, make a referral to our HealthHub.

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