Baby Development and Babbling

"Ba-ba-ba! Da-da-da!" You may not understand what your infant is trying to say, but babbling is an essential step in speech and language development 1. As an infant's jaw, tongue and lips develop, he is able to make sounds that imitate the tone and rhythm of speech, according to the National Institutes of Health. This babbling and cooing sets the stage for a baby's first words, which usually occur around 1 year of age.

Babbling Basics

Most babies begin to babble between 4 to 6 months of age, according to the Children's Hospital of Richmond, Virginia. They usually begin by repeating "p," "b" and "m" sounds and expand to a wider range of vowels and consonants by 6 to 10 months. Babies may babble "mama" and "dada" without understanding the meaning of those words, points out. However, babies often direct their babbling at parents or caregivers and may imitate any babbling sounds you make, too.

Complex Babbling

As babies get older, their babbling becomes more complex and speech-like. For example, by 10 to 12 months, most babies babble with different combinations of syllables, which is called "variegated babbling." For example, a baby might babble "ba-ma-mi" rather than "ba-ba-ba." By 12 to 18 months, babies can often babble in long variegated strings of sounds that include varying tones of voice and sound like a sentence, according to the Children's Hospital of Richmond.

Encouraging Communication

Although you can't really have conversations with your babbling infant, you can still help her learn to communicate by imitating your child's sounds and making different sounds for her to imitate. Get in the habit of smiling or commenting at your child's babbling, cooing, gurgling and other utterances as if they were real language. This positive reinforcement encourages your child to keep communicating. It's also important to expose your child to language, so talk with simple words during your daily routines, such as bathing, shopping or cooking. Finally, read to your child every day with soft books or board books, suggests

Delayed Language Development

Children develop at different rates, but babies who don't respond to sound or try to vocalize may have language development problems, according to 1. Speech and language problems have a wide range of causes, including oral impairments, hearing problems and global developmental delays. Talk to your pediatrician or schedule an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist if you're concerned about your child. Since the first few years are essential in language development, early intervention is important.