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Talking to your baby

5-minute read

Most people find it fairly easy to talk to a baby — after all, nature has designed babies to attract our attention.

Talking to babies helps them learn to talk; however, sometimes it’s hard to know what to say and the best way to communicate with them.

With a little guidance and a few tips, talking to your baby will become easier. If you talked to your baby during your pregnancy, you’re likely to keep up this habit once they’re born. Communication and bonding are reciprocal, and even as a newborn, your baby will respond to your voice.

How do babies communicate in their first months?

Long before they can speak, babies are listening to and observing what is going on in their world.

A baby’s cry is the main way they get their needs met. Crying attracts their parents’ or carers’ attention. With time and development, babies learn more sophisticated ways of communicating.

How do I encourage early talking skills?

From birth, listen for your baby to make little noises, which don’t sound like cries. These are early attempts to talk. Imitate these sounds; your baby's attempts at using their mouth signal their first steps of learning to talk.

Take notice and respond to your baby when they cry. Try to work out why they are crying and think about what they’re experiencing. Always be gentle and sensitive so your baby understands that they are important and that they’ve been heard.

Remember, your baby’s brain is hardwired to seek connection with you. Holding them close, looking at their face and eyes and mimicking their mouth movements are important ways to support their early talking skills.

Language and speech development

Language and speech development

Learn how you can help your child to talk and develop their language and speech skills.

Should I tell my baby stories?

Humans communicate with each other in all sorts of ways. Storytelling is an important means to connect and share information.

You can engage with your baby by:

  • making up your own little stories to entertain yourself and your baby
  • singing songs and reciting nursery rhymes — and having fun while you’re doing it
  • reading stories to your baby — they will soon learn to recognise familiar pictures, and the tone and intonation of your voice
  • being animated and using your hands and face to link words with meaning — simple picture books with bright, primary colours are a good start

How do I understand my baby?

When they’re very young, look for your baby’s reaction when you talk to them. For example, they may stop crying, become calm and look for where your voice is coming from. These early reactions will gradually become clearer, and they’ll try to respond by 'talking' back.

From around 7 weeks of age, babies learn that they can make sounds. This is when they will begin to coo, babble and make simple sounds which sometimes sound like words.

How do I support my baby’s language development in their first 12 months?

Sucking and swallowing help to support language development. From around 6 months of age, learning to chew and swallow solid food will also build their talking skills.

Talk to your baby throughout the day, including when you’re:

At first, your conversations may seem a little one sided and you might feel slightly awkward. Try to remember your baby is not being critical; in fact, they need this type of engagement from you to learn.

5 tips when talking to your baby

  1. Be mindful of other distractions in the home. It’s important that your baby has your focus when you’re talking to them. Televisions, screens and music can all create visual and auditory (hearing) distractions.
  2. Try to be natural when you’re talking to your baby. Be patient if, at first, you feel it’s difficult. Like your baby, you’re learning as well.
  3. Accept there will be times when your baby isn’t as keen to engage with you, such as when they’re tired or hungry.
  4. Pause when you’re talking and give your baby a chance to reply. This will help them to learn about taking turns during conversations.
  5. Look for many small moments during the day to talk. Long conversations are best left for adults.

How do I monitor my baby’s speech development and when should I get help?

Observe your baby’s speech development by doing the following:

  • Check your baby’s newborn hearing test result and if recommended, repeat the test. It’s important to seek expert help as early as possible if you have any doubts about your baby’s hearing.
  • Look for your baby to react to sudden or loud noises.
  • Monitor your baby’s speech development as they learn how to make a wider range of sounds. If you feel they’re stalling, notice stuttering sounds or if they’re not making progress, speak with your child health nurse or GP.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2021

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Language development: children 0-8 years | Raising Children Network

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