Speech and Language Milestones, Birth to 1 Year

Speech and Language Milestones, Birth to 1 Year

Topic Overview

Speech and language development milestones relate to receptive
language (the ability to understand words and sounds) and expressive language
(the ability to use speech and gestures to communicate meaning).

Receptive language skills are the first communication skills learned.
In the womb, babies hear and respond to familiar voices.

Soon after birth, your baby starts to learn expressive language skills. Around 6 to 9 months of age, most babies begin to make the link between sound and meaning. By 12 months, they may have mastered a few words and usually understand far more.

Speech and language milestones
  Receptive language Expressive language

Babies less than 1 month old:

  • Listen to the rhythm and melodies of
  • Usually can pick out their mothers'
  • Learn the rhythm and melodies of two languages when both are
    frequently spoken in their environment.
  • Use undifferentiated crying, which is
    crying that sounds the same and does not vary by specific need.

1- to 4-month-old babies:

  • Prefer "baby talk" and voices with high pitch.
  • Become alert to sounds by blinking or widening eyes; may start to
    be awakened by noise, become startled, or turn toward a sound to look for its
  • Will quiet to their mothers' voices.
  • Make cooing sounds, often vowel sounds such
    as "ah-ah-ah" or "ooh-ooh-ooh."
  • At about 3 months, make cooing
    sounds back to someone who is talking to them.

5- to 6-month-olds:

  • Recognize their own names.
  • Make sounds like "goo" and blow bubbles at
    the same time.
  • At about 6 months, start to babble, repeat sounds,
    such as "ma-ma-ma" or "bah-bah-bah" to get attention or express
  • By 6 months of age, vary their cries to signal specific

7- to 9-month-olds:

  • Hear words as distinct sounds.
  • By 9 months, usually recognize the meaning of some facial
    expressions and tone of voice, such as when a parent says "No!"
  • Repeat sounds that they
  • Mimic the rhythm of the way others talk to
  • May say words like "mama" and "dada."
  • By 9 months
    may wave "bye-bye" when prompted.

10- to 12-month-olds:

  • Begin to follow simple commands like "give me the toy."
  • Usually understand "mama" and "dada" and
    can identify each parent.
  • Correctly refer to each parent as "mama" or
  • Use the index finger to point to things they want and need.
  • At about 12 months, say a few single words other than "mama" or

Related Information


ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics

Current as ofJanuary 11, 2018

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