Meaningless babble or the start of talking?
Updated: Aug 27, 2018
Babies start communicating from birth. It starts with crying (though we don't always know what they're telling us!) and over the next 6 months they discover other sounds.
Between 6 and 10 months we see true babbling emerge (baa...daa...ubba...didi) where we see a consonant and a vowel. This is called canonical babbling which is actually a very important milestone!
Canonical babbling resembles the shape of what will be baby's first words. 'Daaa' becomes 'daa...daaa' which soon becomes a deliberate 'dada'.
The consonant sounds present in baby's babble are also usually the sounds that will be in his first words. So listen carefully!
As baby approaches his or her first birthday, the babble increases rapidly. It can be so continuous that it may sound like your baby is talking a different language!
This is called jargon, and is totally normal. The amount of jargon gradually decreases as your child learns more and more English (or other language) words to put in its place. Using more jargon than real words after their second birthday is a sign of a communication delay.
Do I need to do anything?
Yes! Babbling is your baby's way of communicating, so let them know you are listening by responding. When your baby babbles:
Observe- Is he babbling to send you a message, by combing it with pointing or looking at you? Respond by putting into words what you think he might be wanting to tell you. If he is babbling by himself while playing it's likely that he's practicing his new sounds, and trying to discover more
Babble back to babies in play. This introduces 'copying' which is important for learning new skills, and encourages further babbling.
My baby isn't babbling
When babies between 6 and 12 months aren't babbling, playing with sounds, or using jargon, this can be cause for concern. Babies learn from a young age that we communicate with one another through taking turns making sounds.
Help your baby be noisy (using their mouth that is!) by singing, talking, copying their sounds, and talking to them.
While it's important to talk with your baby, it's even more important that you pause, and give baby an opportunity to 'say' something back.
Research is showing that the turn taking in conversations is incredibly important for a child's long term communication development.
Encourage conversation turns by asking questions, looking expectantly for an answer, and waiting. If they don't respond, ask again, then provide an answer if there is still no response.
Offer choices to encourage them to say something to show their preference. They can choose between two shirts you've pulled out, between a banana and a peg for morning tea (yes, a peg! That'll get them thinking), or even choose which toy they want to add to the bath next.
Babbling is such an important milestone, and if children are delayed to babble, this is an indicator that they are likely to be delayed to begin to talk.
If your child isn't babbling by 12 months, it's worth a check up with a speech pathologist to help understand why this might, and to get some tips and strategies to help them along.