What to Expect in Expressive Languge: Birth to 12 months

Here’s my attempt at compiling a basic list of speech and language development using my experience as a speech-language pathologist and mommy. As a first time mommy, I often have so many questions regarding my baby so I thought I’d put together a little blurb about speech and language milestones for other parents or anyone else who is interested! Please keep in mind however that every child learns at his or her own speed and this is just a guideline.
Talking: Expressive Language
Expressive Language is the ability to communicate with others using language. So any kind of cry, coo, smile, laugh, babble, and vocalization is how baby communicates expressively. Listed below are these skills in a general order of development.

Birth-3 months
During this time period, you may notice your baby has a different cry for hunger, anger, pain, and discomfort. We definitely noticed this with Sweet Pea and learned very quickly what that hunger cry sounded like during all of those middle of the night feeds! And yes, they start to do more than just cry (although it may seem like that’s all they do at 2 a.m.). You’ll begin to hear coos and goos and other pleasure sounds. Baby is communicating and make sure to repeat those cute little coos and goos right back at them! By doing this, you are teaching them turn taking. You’ll see baby smiling and laughing and a lot of these are more reflexive early on but you can definitely start encouraging him or her by imitating and playing with them while they do that.

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4-6 months

Things start to get fun and you can see your baby’s little personality begin to unfold. I definitely figured out that Sweet Pea was a little social butterfly who absolutely loves people! At this stage, you may hear baby babbling with different consonant sounds such as “pa”, “ba”, “ma”. Baby may also gurgle when playing alone and with you. Sweet Pea “talked” a lot on her changing table early on and I just went with it, imitating her sounds and singing to her. She absolutely loved it and would just stare at my mouth. I repeated the sounds back to her once she was finished talking and she waited until I was finished. Now that’s communication!!

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7 months-1 year

We are currently in this stage as Sweet Pea is nearing 8 months! You will start to hear more babbling in this stage where baby repeats parts of words over and over such as “bababa” or “dadada”. I remember when she said “dadada” for the first time. It happened while eating one of her veggie purees and I just had to text my husband a video of her doing this. Now this is not a “true word” because it has no meaning but it still is exciting to hear! You’ll definitely hear them trying to get attention using both vocalizations and non-crying sounds. Baby will start to imitate different speech sounds, actions, and words. My baby girl is imitating us waving, banging our hands on her tray, and shaking our head. By 12 months old, you may hear your cutie say a few words such as “ball”, “bye-bye”, or “mama”. It may not be the most intelligible but this is when you can begin to count it as a first word because they associate meaning with these words (will say “ball” when they see a ball or a picture of one and say “mama” when they see you, etc.).

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Well, there you have expressive language in a nutshell. Remember that this is just a very basic guideline and if you have any concerns or questions regarding your baby’s speech or language development, talk to your pediatrician. My next blog will focus on the hearing and understanding or receptive language side of communication.

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