Experimenting with Sound

As your baby hears vocalization by others, she is inspired to communicate back with her own vocalization patterns.


Mom is staying home with her baby girl all day while her husband goes to work. One day, her husband comes home, and her seven-month-old daughter blurts out, “Dada!” Mom’s heart sinks. She wonders how her baby says “Dada” first when she is the one caring for the baby every day. Of course during this time, her husband is walking around the house like a proud peacock, texting everyone he knows; however, in reality, her daughter says “Dada” first because it was simply easier for her to say than “Mama.”


Babies will say words that are easier for them to form with their mouths because they are still learning to control their lips and mouth movements. In knowing this, Mom can now feel better about hearing the baby say “Dada” before “Mama.” The most important thing about repetitive babbling is that your infant is practicing making deliberate and precise sounds.

Between three and six months, your baby will begin to babble. This is in response to sounds that you or other people make.

Think about a time you were so tired and you yawned in front of someone. That person then said, “Please don’t yawn. You are making me yawn.” Babbling is similarly contagious for your baby; she babbles, then you talk, then she wants to babble some more, and it keeps going until one of you gets tired.

Babbling will continue for several months. Around seven months, your baby will add repetitive babbling to her repertoire. In repetitive babbling, she will repeat the same speech sound over and over again; an example of this is “dadadada.” Repetitive babbling occurs because your infant is learning to control her lips and vocal cords and make them all work simultaneously

During the seven- to ten-month period, babies begin to show a preference for speech, can distinguish intonations in the voice, and know how to take turns in conversations—all despite the fact that they still cannot speak.

In other words, the babbling really sounds like communication with pitch, pointing, and pauses that make statements and ask questions. It is a fascinating time to listen and respond to your infant engaging in reciprocal communication experiences.

Between 10 to 12 months, your baby will use protowords; these are words that are not exactly like the original word but close. You will hear “baba” for bottle or “Dada” and “Mama” for Dad and Mom. The differences between protowords and repetitive babbling are that now your infant is using two syllables as opposed to a string of sounds. Protowords move your infant even closer to the development of speech.

First words will usually occur between 10 and 13 months of age, and they will be nouns like “ball” and “Mama.” There is nothing quite as exciting as hearing baby’s first words.

The start of language communication is an exciting time for you and your baby. It is so important to make sure you are talking daily with your baby and speaking through routines such as diaper changes and feeding times.