When Do Babies Start Talking? (2024)

Talking is one of the most exciting baby milestones. Most babies start talking at about 12 to 18 months old—if by "start talking," you mean "say their first word." There are many other speech and language milestones that happen both before and after that first word.

It's hard to wait all those months for our babies to begin telling us what is on their minds. After all, not being able to understand how they’re feeling is one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of caring for little ones. And as we wait, we may worry: Why is it taking so long? Do those coos and babbles count as talking? What if my baby’s speech is delayed?

These questions (and more) are common. Let’s take a look at what to expect when it comes to your baby’s language skills, and what to do if you have any concerns.

Early Communication Skills

Even though it may not really seem like it, your baby is communicating with you as soon as they are born. Crying is the one of the only ways they have to communicate at first, but it’s certainly a powerful one.

In time, most parents are able to understand what their baby's cries mean, as well as how to meet their needs before the crying even starts. This back and forth between parent and child is the first way you teach your baby how to communicate and connect with you.

Besides crying, there are other ways your baby communicates with you in their first few months, and these are all precursors to language development. Here’s what to know about those early language milestones:

  • At two months, your baby will start turning their head to you when you speak; they may also start making cooing and gurgling sounds.
  • By four months, your baby will start babbling, and may even begin to copy some of the sounds and intonations you are making and to respond to your speech with sounds of their own (turn-taking).
  • By six months, there is more back and forth between you and your baby. Your baby may respond to your questions and requests with particular sounds, and they should also begin responding to their own names. At this age, their babbling will become more fine-tuned, with more “m” and “b” sounds. They may also squeal and blow "raspberries."
  • By nine months, your baby will look at you when you say their name and make lots of "mamama" and "bababa" sounds. They will raise their arms to tell you they want to be picked up.

Common First Words

Most babies will say their first word by the time they reach their first birthday. However, some babies may say their first word earlier or later than this.

It’s around this time that you will notice your baby’s receptive language skills—your baby understanding what you are saying—increasing as well. In fact, receptive skills often come before expressive (talking) skills. So if your baby points to things, understands simple instructions (“give Mommy the spoon”), and turns their head when you call out for them, these are very good signs of normal language development.

Common first words contain the “b,” “d,” and “m” sounds, which are easiest for your baby to say, so “mama” or “dada” are usually winners! But there is wide variation, with some babies saying more obscure first words than that.

Your baby may have certain sounds that mean certain things, or more than one thing. For example, “baba” may mean “bottle,” “banana,” and “baby.”

The way you can tell that a sound your baby says is meant to be a word is that they say the word in reference to a particular person or thing, and that they do some with some level of consistency.

At one year, babies can point and wave, and they may say words while pointing and gesturing—shaking their head while saying “no,” or waving while saying “bye.”

When Do Babies Talk in Sentences?

Babies usually start out by saying just a few words, and they may go weeks and months before adding new words to their vocabulary. However, between the ages of 18 months and two years, most babies have a language explosion, learning about one new word a week.

However, it’s closer to two years before babies really begin “talking”—i.e., stringing their words together into simple sentences. According to the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP), most two-year-olds will be able to point to pictures in books, people, and common objects and be able to name them.

They will be able to say between 50 and 100 words, and will start to combine words together to make two word phrases like “all done,” and “play ball.” Some two-year-olds begin to say three-word sentences, and others are speaking in paragraphs.

There is a wide range of "normal" here, but by two years old, you should see your child’s vocabulary increase, as well as their ability to understand what you are saying, follow simple instructions, and use words and gestures to communicate.

It's also important to note that children who are bilingual may seem delayed in speech as they can be confused as to which language to use. Pediatricians ask about languages spoken at home to differentiate between true delays and normal progression. (And being bilingual has many benefits!)

Auditory Discrimination in Children

Support Speech and Language Development

Babies are watching and listening all the time. Simply talking to them as you go about your day is one of the best ways to help them learn language. Reading books and singing songs together also promotes language development.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends activities like these to help babies and young toddlers learn to understand what you say and to speak for themselves.

  • As you are talking about what you are doing or the book you are reading, give your baby the words for colors, shapes, and numbers: "Here are three green apples in our bowl. One, two, three!"
  • Have conversations with your baby, even before they can talk. Respond to their sounds, laughs, and funny faces with your own, taking turns.
  • When your baby starts to learn and say words, add on to them. If they say "milk," you might say, "Would you like more milk? Here is milk in your blue cup."

Signs of Speech Delay

Remember, some babies speak later than others, and some speak earlier—and that's OK. Milestones are all estimates, and it’s OK if your baby falls outside them. It’s also possible for babies to have a delay in expressive speech (talking), but be on track when it comes to receptive speech (understanding).

Having a delay in language is actually quite common; according to the AAP, one in five children will learn to talk later than other children their age. Sometimes these delays resolve on their own.

However, it’s always good to discuss concerns about your child’s language development with your pediatrician so that they can assess the delay. Sometimes speech delays are a sign of hearing impairment, developmental delays, or autism spectrum disorder.

If your doctor has any concerns about your child’s speech delay, they may have you fill out a questionnaire about your child’s health and development, ask you a series of questions, and observe your child and interact with them to assess their language development.

They may also refer you to a hearing specialist, a speech-language pathologist, or a developmental therapist. If your child needs further assistance, your pediatrician or other specialist may refer your child for an evaluation and services provided by an early intervention program.

It may be stressful to bring up your concerns about your child’s language development, but it’s always better to tackle these things earlier than later.

If there are issues, initiating therapies as early as possible is essential. The earlier you bring up your concerns and see if your child needs intervention, the better. In most cases, when intervention is implemented early enough, it can make a significant difference in the child's abilities.

Therapy for Speech and Language Delays

A Word From Verywell

One of the most exciting parts of parenting a baby is witnessing them reach milestones. There is nothing more delightful than seeing your baby break out into a gummy smile for the first time, and nothing more thrilling (and anxiety-producing!) as watching your baby take their first steps. Your baby’s first babbles, their first word, and their first sentence—these are moments you will remember and savor forever.

Of course, with the anticipation of baby milestones also comes the worries. You worry that your baby isn’t meeting a milestone quickly enough, or that they haven’t mastered the milestone in the correct way. That’s why it’s important to always discuss your worries and concerns with your pediatrician—they can guide you on the right path, and soothe any anxieties that you might have.

3 Sources

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC's developmental milestones,

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Language delays in toddlers: Information for parents.

  3. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Activities to encourage speech and language development.

When Do Babies Start Talking? (1)

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.

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