Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Talking to your baby

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Your baby listens to you and can recognise your voice from a very early age, even if they can't reply.
  • As part of learning to talk, your baby will make cooing and babbling sounds.
  • Talk to your baby as you go about your day, using lots of words to describe what is happening.
  • By six months old, your baby will start to understand a few words.
  • It's OK to use more than one language to talk to your baby.

Why should I talk to my baby?

If you talked to your baby during your pregnancy, you're likely to keep up this habit once they're born. Babies are easy to talk to and it's fun to watch them listening.

Even as a newborn, your baby will respond to your voice. Your baby will enjoy it when you talk to them.

Talking to babies helps them learn to talk.

How do babies communicate in their first months?

Long before they can speak, your baby will be listening and watching everything that is going on around them.

At first, your baby will cry to let you know that they need something. If your baby starts to cry take notice and respond to them. Look for your baby's reaction when you talk to them. They may stop crying, become calm and look for where your voice is coming from. Responding to your baby's cries lets them know that they are important and that they've been heard.

As your baby grows and develops, they will learn other ways to get your attention. They might point, or crawl towards something they want.

How do I encourage early talking skills?

From around 8 weeks old your baby will learn that they can make sounds. Listen for your baby to make little noises, which don't sound like cries.

Your baby will practice making sounds using their:

  • mouth
  • lips
  • tongue
  • jaw

You can join in and have a 'conversation' with your baby. Don't talk over these sounds, use a gap to reply. You could say something like 'you sound very happy' or 'say that again' to get your baby to make more talking noises.

Try watching closely and imitating the sounds that your baby is making. If they make a sound that's like a word you can show that you're pleased. Repeat the sounds or say the word yourself.

Remember, your baby's brain is wired to seek connection with you. You can also support their early talking skills by:

  • holding them close
  • looking at their face and eyes
  • copying their mouth movements
Language and speech development

Language and speech development

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

What else can I do to support my baby's speech development in their first 12 months?

Talk to your baby throughout the day and describe what is happening. Speak slowly and clearly and repeat common words. Talk to your baby when you:

  • play with them
  • change their nappy
  • get them dressed
  • go out

If you speak more than one language talk to your baby using both languages. This will help them to learn the sounds that they will need to speak two languages when they are older.

Reading and telling stories

People communicate and connect with each other in all sorts of ways.

You can use storytelling as a fun way to talk to your baby:

  • make up your own little stories for your baby
  • sing songs and read nursery rhymes
  • read to your baby — they will soon learn to recognise familiar pictures, and the tones of your voice.
  • use different voices and tones to communicate what happens in the story
  • use your hands and face to link words with meaning.
  • choose simple picture books with bright, primary colours for your baby

Developing the muscles needed for speech

Sucking and swallowing helps to support language development.

Learning to chew and swallow will also build the muscles needed to talk. From around 6 months of age, offer your baby solid food.

5 tips when talking to your baby

  1. Try to fully focus on your baby when you're talking to them. Televisions, screens and music can all create distractions.
  2. Try to be natural when you're talking to your baby. Be patient with yourself as well - you're both learning.
  3. Sometimes your baby won't be very interested in talking, 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. Your baby is too young for a long conversation.

How can I monitor my baby's speech development?

There are ways you can observe your baby's speech development .

As they grow, your baby will learn how to make a wider range of sounds. By 12 months your baby should understand a few words, including their name. They will be babbling and copying sounds.


Hearing problems can impact your child's speech.

Look at your baby's newborn hearing test result. Repeat the test if it is recommended. Check if your baby reacts to sudden or loud noises.

Seek expert help as early as possible if you have any doubts about your baby's hearing.

When should I get help?

If you feel like your child isn't making progress with their speech, you can speak with:

Resources and support

You can find more information through Speech Pathology Australia.

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: June 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

Baby Speech Development | Language Development | Tresillian

Babies have an amazing capacity to learn and develop languages. Learn about baby speech development and language milestones.

Read more on Tresillian website

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

Language development underpins cognitive, social and literacy development. A lot of talking responding and reading with you helps your child learn language.

Read more on website

Baby language development: 3-12 months | Raising Children Network

At 3-12 months, there’s a lot happening with baby language development. Expect your baby to coo, laugh, play with sounds, babble and gesture. Read more.

Read more on website

Language development in children 1-2 years | Raising Children Network

At 1-2 years, children learn many new words and start combining them into short sentences. By two years, you can partly understand what children are saying.

Read more on website

Language development in autistic children | Raising Children Network

Autistic children can find it hard to learn and use language. You can help by creating reasons to use language, playing, modelling and rewarding language.

Read more on website

Language and speech development

Every child develops at their own pace and there are certain milestones that are related to your child’s speech development.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Your baby's growth and development — 9 months old

At 9 months, your baby will be developing their personality. They will form stronger attachments with people, preferring some over others.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Your baby's growth and development — 10 months old

At 10 months, your baby will be very active and developing a personality. As a parent you'll probably be chasing them around as they crawl.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Your baby's growth and development - 7 months old

At 7 months, your baby may be sitting up on their own and eating solid foods. Learn more about your baby's development at 7 months.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Your baby's growth and development — 12 months old

At 12 months, your baby is now a toddler. They may already, or soon take first steps, develop a sense of humour, and tell you they love you.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.