Even in the womb, babies tune into their mum’s voice and those of other significant adults. That means once they’re born, they’ll instinctively love to hear you talk and have you close, moving their head or body towards sounds they hear or recognise. It’s the start of a lifelong conversation between you.
Though they can’t yet speak, newborn babies are fascinated by faces and will try to copy your expressions. Have fun sticking your tongue out or opening and closing your mouth, and see if they try to do the same. They also love to play peek-a-boo: seeing you disappear and then appear again helps them to begin thinking about where things are when they can’t see them.
Between two and four months old, babies start to make eye contact, smiling, gurgling or giving you little signals such as moving arms and legs. Encourage this as it helps your baby to develop their sense of self, and start learning social skills.
As you go about your day, talk to your baby about what you’re up to, and if you notice they’re particularly interested in something, talk to them about it. Babies love ‘sing-song’ voices with lots of facial expressions. Don’t be afraid to leave gaps in the ‘conversation’ – it’s a chance for them to respond with a smile or gurgle so they start to get the hang of ‘taking turns’.
Little babies will also listen and respond to an adult singing songs and rhymes with them. Stories, songs and rhymes
From six months, your baby will start to look at you when you call their name, and will start to understand words like ‘bye bye’ and ‘up’, especially when a gesture is used at the same time. They’ll also recognise the names of familiar objects like ‘teddy’ and ‘mummy’. You’ll hear them starting to make babble sounds like ma-ma-ma and ba-ba-ba. When they do this, repeat the same sounds back. This lets them know you’re listening and encourages them to have another go. By the time they’re a year old, they may start to use their first words.
Why not talk to your baby about their favourite toys? For example, ask if they can find teddy’s nose, eyes and feet. Then see if they can point to their own nose, eyes and feet and your nose, eyes etc. They’ll need to hear these words many, many times before they can start to use them themselves.
Every child develops differently, so when children start talking varies hugely. If you’re worried about your baby’s speech, don’t be afraid to discuss it with your public health nurse (health visitor) who can signpost extra support and services where necessary.
Ditch the dummy!
Dummies can be a great comfort at bedtime or when your baby’s upset, but you should try to wean them off it by the time they’re a year old because regular and extended use of a dummy can cause problems with developing speech. Your baby needs lots of time to practise making sounds without anything in their mouth, so at the very least restrict their use to bed time.
If your child is growing up learning more than one language, you might find this information leaflet helpful as you support them.
- Talk Matters – a short film which will help you understand what to expect in your child’s language development and which provides good advice on how to help your child
- Babbling with your baby
- The ages and stages of children’s communication development
- Short films to help parents encourage their child’s communication development
- Top tips for parents
- Advice on developing your child’s talking and listening (available in 17 different languages)
Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called Chat Health. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.
Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.
Leicester City: text 07520 615381
Leicestershire & Rutland: text 07520 615382