There aren’t many things more exciting than your baby’s first words. It might be “mama”, it might be “dada”, or it might be something totally off-the-wall. Whatever it is, you’ll probably remember it forever. So, when do babies start talking? Well, it depends on the baby!
Your baby’s own natural inclinations will guide the timeline for their speaking.
And how much you talk to and around your little one will affect things, too.
But generally, it can be anywhere from about 6 to 18 months before you hear baby’s first words (i.e. something that isn’t “blah boo blooh bah”).
A proper conversation is some way away.
But all babies do communicate from a very early age.
Here, we’re mapping out the milestones you can expect on your baby’s route to their first words. And we’ll suggest some ways that you can help your baby along the way.
So, when do babies talk? Let’s find out.
In this article: 📝
- When do babies start talking?
- Some possible milestones to your baby’s first words
- Can babies start talking at 2 months?
- When do babies say their first word?
- When do babies start talking fluently?
- When do babies start understanding words?
- What is a late talker?
- How to teach baby to talk
When do babies start talking?
So, when should babies start talking? On average, most babies say their first word by their first birthday.
By this point, many babies are able to say a couple of simple words and understand what they mean.
But an average is only an average – and the 12-month milestone isn’t true for every baby.
Essentially, baby words can emerge any time between 6 and 18 months. In some cases, even later.
Of course, before that first word, your little one will have been communicating in their own way already.
At first, that’s through crying. But then those goo-goo-ga-gas (and other adorable sounds) will soon come tumbling out ‒ baby talk.
And from there, it’s not so far to real talk at all.
Some possible milestones to your baby’s first words
When it comes to bringing up babies, timelines are all a bit up in the air.
Yet, we’ll give it a shot. Here’s a rough guide on the baby steps toward grown-up communication – from pointing and gurgling to a proper conversation.
There isn’t a perfect answer to that question ‘when should babies start talking?’.
A bit of a delay in talking isn’t necessarily a cause for panic (more on that below).
And take every generalization with a pinch of salt. Your baby might just be doing things differently. After all, every baby is different, and they certainly don’t come with a manual!
So, relating to other baby milestones, do babies walk or talk first?
Well, there is a popular saying, “walking by 1, talking by 2”, which can be accurate for some babies.
But walking and talking aren’t just instant milestones in themselves ‒ first words and first steps aren’t quite fluent communication and walking from room-to-room.
Can babies start talking at 2 months?
We’ve heard it asked before. Can babies talk at 2 months?
It’s possible, but unlikely.
As mamas, we’re desperate to hear our little one’s first words.
But language learning is usually a slow process – and can take a little longer than we’d like.
Babies communicate through sight, sound, and smiles from early on.
Yet, fully-fledged words at 2 months would be impressive.
The first words usually – although not always – come a bit later.
What can you expect at the 2 to 3-month mark?
Their first vowel sounds – ‘oohs and ‘aahs” – aren’t far away.
When do babies start talking baby language?
After this success, things start slowly to sound a little more like words.
The ‘baby talk’ age is from about 4 to 8 months, you can expect more sounds to be strung together.
Plosive sounds and murmurs, like ‘puh’, ‘buh’, and ‘muh’ are prime examples of ‘baby talk’ ‒ simply done by baby putting their lips together while making a noise.
But they’re not yet a talking baby. Don’t mistake these noises for ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ – although it might sound like it.
It’s unlikely that ‘mamamama’ means you just yet.
At this age, sounds tend to be just sounds.
These gurgles and babbles are a good thing, though. It shows that they are practicing the sounds they’ll need to form words later on.
When do babies say their first word?
By 8 months, we’re getting very close to the first word.
It’s likely to happen from about 8 months, although it can be heard slightly earlier – and much later, too.
By around their first birthday, you will probably have heard that elusive first word.
Other things happen around this time too – like pointing and gesturing.
How many words should a 12-month say?
By the time they’re one, one or two words – maybe more – are pretty likely.
These will usually be ‘dada’ or ‘mama’, or other simple sounds.
A heads-up that, usually, boys tend to be a little behind girls in their language development.
So, if your little one isn’t talking as much as you’d expect, don’t worry.
How many words should an 18-month-old say?
By 18 months, your baby could be able to say as many as 10 different words.
These are usually objects or people that are usually around them ‒ ‘mama’, ‘dada’, ‘milk’, ‘dog’, ‘cup’, ‘cat’.
But they can also include social cues, like ‘hello’, ‘hi’, and ‘bye-bye’.
It’s also totally normal for babies to pronounce words ‘wrong’ ‒ in the process of repeating words you’re saying, some sounds might be harder for them to replicate.
So ‘cat’ could be ‘cah’, ‘ball’ could be ‘baw’. It’s usually the case for sounds that are created using a tongue, rather than just the shape of your mouth.
When do babies start talking fluently?
The magic moment for babies and language is after about 2 years.
At this point, the number of words your child knows will snowball.
They call this the ‘language explosion’ for a reason.
At two years, though, fluency remains a little ambitious.
So when do babies start talking in sentences? Well, you can expect two-word sentences and a vocabulary of hundreds of words.
They’ll be coupling a few words, like ‘bye-bye dog’, ‘me milk’, and ‘hi mama’.
Then, by around 3-years-old, you’ll have yourself a pretty fluent talking baby (well… toddler)!
They’ll be using their imagination to bring life to toys and characters, start to verbalize feelings, and be able to use words like ‘on’, ‘at’, and ‘in’ to create more rounded sentences.
When do babies start understanding words?
While a talking baby may be a bit further down the road at this point, by around 6 months, your little one may be able to understand some words as you’re speaking to them.
They might be able to recognize and respond to their own name, and pick up on tones of voice ‒ baby will know if you’re upset at them for throwing their toys on the floor for the fifth time.
Then, by around 9 months, they might understand requests and social cues, from “put that down” to “hello!”.
What is a late talker?
It’s not the nicest term. These medical expressions never are (that’s why we started our #RenamingRevolution!).
But a late talker is a child who is a bit slower than average in terms of the words they know and understand, or the sounds they can make.
It could well be that your baby is just taking things slow, and that’s OK!
But other signs of understanding can give you a sense of how they are developing.
If your baby can point at things and follow simple instructions, for example, this is a good sign.
If in doubt, though, and if you haven’t heard any words by 15 or 18 months, a doctor would be happy to help you.
There are a few things that can be done to help, if you’re concerned:
- Hearing test, although this is usually done right after birth, if you think there could be a chance that your baby is hard of hearing, speak with your healthcare provider to arrange a complete hearing exam. If baby does have difficulty with their hearing, there are lots of ways you can communicate with them, like ASL.
- Developmental screening. Sometimes, a developmental disability or behavioral disorder can cause delays in speech. Again, finding out early can mean that you can change your method of communication to better understand your child, and so they can better understand you.
- Speech therapy. While you might think that toddlerhood is quite young for speech therapy, there are some speech therapists and speech-language pathologists who can help teach baby to talk.
How to teach baby to talk
Finally, what can you do to help teach baby to talk?
The answer is simple: talk to them!
While sing-song baby talk is super-cute, talking in proper sentences can be good for baby’s cognitive development.
Babies follow the rhythm of your speech and watch and mimic the ways your lips move.
This helps them to develop their own speaking abilities.
So, keep on talking.
Try engaging with their babbling – even if you feel silly.
And, when you say something, try to give them an opportunity to reply.
These interactions help their conversation skills and ensure that you don’t miss anything they’ve said!
Babies understand what you’re saying long before they can clearly speak. Many babies learning to talk use only one or two words at first, even when they understand 25 or more.
Our top tips on how to teach baby to talk:
- Read aloud. You can even start this while baby’s in the womb! Read books aloud to baby ‒ whether they’re baby books, or something for yourself. Maybe put down that Stephen King book, though… Need some ideas for books? We’ve got our top lists of personalized kids’ books, children’s books about diversity, and baby books.
- Narrate yours and baby’s life. If you’re cooking dinner, describe to baby what you’re doing. If baby is making their hungry noises, verbalize what you think they want (“Milk, please, mama”).
- Make a big deal if they get it right. If baby’s trying to say a word, stick with them, then when they get it right, celebrate!
- Use play as a teaching moment. Playtime engages baby’s imagination and communication skills, so it’s the perfect time to learn new words. Playing doctors? Use phrases like “next patient, please” or “if you’re feeling poorly, you might need some medicine”. Using words with a few syllables instead of oversimplifying your language is a great way to build baby’s vocabulary.
So, now you know the answer to the question, when do babies start talking?
Remember, every baby’s development journey is different, there is no ‘wrong’, and, on Peanut, there is no judgment.
You’ve got this, mama.
👶 More baby milestones:
Your Guide to Baby’s First Haircut
When Do Babies Lose Their Hair? And Why?
Baby Growth Spurts: What are the Milestones?
When Do Babies Start Smiling?
When Do Babies See Color?
When Do Babies Roll Over?
When Do Babies Crawl?
When Do Babies Walk?
When Do Babies Sit Up?
When Do Babies Start Teething?
When Do Babies Say Mama?
When Do Babies Stop Spitting Up?
When Do Babies Start Cooing?
When Do Babies Get Kneecaps?
When Do Babies Grow Hair?
When Do Babies Clap?
When Do Babies Start Dreaming?
When Do Babies Make Eye Contact?
What Are the Different Stages of Crawling?
When Can Babies Eat Baby Food?
When Can Babies Hold Their Head Up?
When Do Babies Start Laughing?