First Words: Reach this Baby Milestone

Every new mom waits patiently to hear her baby’s first words--probably secretly hoping it will be “mama.” But when that first bit of language finally emerges, don’t panic if you can’t understand exactly what your baby is saying. For my firstborn, her early utterances were tough to discern, but one day in her 13th month, she clearly said “fan” (a strange first word, I know) -- and I was certain a genius was born. Here’s how to encourage your baby’s first words:

Keep on talking: Experts agree that the more words your new baby hears, the better, so keep talking to her even if you think she’s tuning you out. I talked endlessly to my daughter when she was a baby, commenting on what we saw in the park, what she was eating, and what the plans were for the day. I explained the weather, talked about what we were buying in the food store, and even narrated how I changed her Pampers diaper. No topic was too dull.

Take pause: As you chitchat during the day, be sure to give your new baby time to digest what you’ve said -- and to reply in her baby gurgle. This will help her learn the flow of conversation. My baby babbled away and tried to repeat what she heard, so I acted as if I was having a conversation with her and gave her time to explain “her side.”

Crack the books: Begin to read from day one! It’s never too early to start short board books with new babies. Isabel loved to snuggle up and hear a couple before bed, and she’d chew on them during the day, too. To help along baby development, work up to longer picture books, and let her help by turning the pages.

Break into song: Simple rhyming ditties are entertaining, of course, but they also serve to teach new babies new words. I used to sing as we were walking in the park, picking up toys, or eating a snack or meal. Pop music hits, church hymns, camp songs -- any happy tune will do the trick.

Above all, I learned not to feel silly as I taught my baby to talk. Yes, gabbing about your to-do list to your little one can be a bit strange, and you will often feel like you’re talking to yourself. However, it will be more than worth it once your new baby says her first words. 

by Jennifer Kelly Geddes