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Enhancing your child's speech and language

There is a lot to think about in the run-up to your baby’s birth. Here are a few tips to make sure that your baby has the best chance to learn to communicate with you right from the start.

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Why is it important to think about my baby’s speech and language development so early?

Most brain development occurs between birth and age two, so that is why babies and toddlers need us to talk to them so much. Good language skills make learning easier and help children to do well at school. Being able to communicate also helps children to become happy and sociable.

Do babies learn speech and language skills before they are born?

Yes, babies develop some skills that are needed for communication before they are born. In the sixth month of pregnancy your baby begins to be able to hear, remember, experience and learn. At this stage your baby can hear music, your voice and the voices of those in the environment. By the time your baby is born they recognise and can be calmed by the sound of their parents and other familiar voices.

Should I talk to my bump?

Yes. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it is really helpful for your baby to learn to recognise your voice. Talk to your bump as you get on with everyday activities. Make your voice go up and down in pitch – this will help your baby develop good listening skills in the future. You may notice your baby relaxes and becomes calmer and quieter at the sound of your voice. Ask your partner and other family members to talk to your baby before they are born. This is a good way to help your baby recognise these voices once born.

Should I sing to my bump?

Singing to your bump can also help to develop listening skills in your baby. Use the same songs once your baby is born and your baby will recognise them, helping them to feel calm and secure. Theme tunes to television programmes you enjoy will also be familiar to your baby.

What about after my baby is born?

The communication between you and your unborn baby will help build a bond which can continue following birth. The first hour after your baby is born will be especially important for you, your partner and baby. Your baby needs skin to skin contact to get familiar with the smell and sound of their parents. Your baby will communicate with you, letting you know when they are hungry, happy or in pain by the way they cry, coo, and smile. It can be hard to work out what your baby wants at first, but the more you get to know each other the more you will tune in to your baby’s needs and wants.

How do I communicate with my baby?

  • Watch what your baby does.
  • Wait for your baby to make noises and movements.
  • Copy your baby’s noises and movements.
  • Wait to see what your baby does next.
  • Notice where your baby looks and name things they can see.

Our home language is not English – what language should we speak to our baby?

Being bilingual can be a great advantage. The best way to help your child is to talk to them as much as possible in your own language; it doesn’t have to be English. That way, your child will learn to talk confidently, and will be ready to learn English when they start at pre-school.

Which kind of buggy is best for speech and language development?

On average, babies and toddlers spend two hours a day in a buggy. That’s one whole month in the buggy by the time a baby is one year old. Buggies are more beneficial for babies and toddlers if the child faces the parent rather than facing away.

What are the benefits of a parent-facing buggy?

Babies are born to be sociable, and they need someone to be sociable with in order to develop their social, emotional and communication skills. Research shows that when babies are in parent-facing buggies we talk to them twice as much. We can see their faces, observe what they are looking at and talk to them about what they see as we walk. We also laugh together more when our babies can see us. Babies talk more and make more sounds when they are facing their parent in a buggy. Babies tend to sleep more in parent-facing buggies, suggesting that their stress levels are lower than when they face away from us.

Should I use a dummy for my baby?

Dummies can help by comforting your baby at bedtime or when they are tired or upset. If you choose to use a dummy, wait until your baby is over four weeks old. However, if you are breastfeeding, dummies are not advised until breastfeeding is established. Regular and long term use of a dummy can cause problems with a child’s speech. Dummies can stop babies from babbling, which is an important step in learning to talk. Try to limit dummy use to sleep times and aim to wean them off by the time they are 12 months old. When your baby cries, they are trying to tell you something, so try to find out what’s troubling them first.

Feeding and oral development

Along with many other advantages, breastfeeding promotes normal development of the face and mouth. Several studies have shown breastfeeding to enhance speech development and speech clarity.

Where to go for support

For more information see our West Sussex Speech and Language Therapy team page or take a look at the following:

Words for Life: Useful information about helping babies and children learn to talk

The Communication Trust: Useful information about helping babies and children learn to talk


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Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-5 years called ParentLine. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9.30am and 4.30pm in Brighton & Hove and Monday to Friday between 9am to 4.30pm in West Sussex, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a health visitor 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.

This page was last reviewed on 08-01-2024

This page will be next reviewed on 02-01-2025