Your baby's range of sounds and facial expressions continues to grow, with lots of babbling, squealing, smiling, and laughing — which may mean less time for crying. Your baby is also imitating sounds, which are first attempts at speaking.
How Babies Communicate
Babies this age begin to experiment with the sounds they can make with their mouth, using saliva as an important tool. Your baby will also make more attempts to imitate sounds and spend more time babbling. Make no mistake, these are your baby's early attempts at speaking and should be encouraged as much as possible. If you listen closely, you'll hear your baby's voice raise and drop as if asking a question or making a statement.
Your baby is just now beginning to understand the fundamentals of communication through language. When younger, your baby understood your meaning through the tone of your voice: Soothing tones were comforting, agitated tones told him or her something was wrong. Now, your baby is beginning to pick out the components of your speech and can hear and understand the different sounds you make and the way words form sentences.
Realizing that his or her noises have an effect on you, your baby will enjoy playing copycat games where you mimic what your little one says. Your baby may also make the discovery that crying grabs your attention. This is mostly a good thing, but your baby will also use it on occasion when bored or frustrated. Babies may also try coughing to get parental attention. Rather than punish a baby for this, give extra attention once the coughing or fussing has stopped. This is the age when your baby is able to reflect your emotional state, which is the beginning of true communication.
What Should I Do?
Babies this age like being stimulated by games and vocal interactions. Your baby will be thrilled when you copy his or her coos and gurgles. Imitate your baby's vowel sounds, then follow up by saying some simple words that contain the same vowel sound.
Have "conversations" and wait for a pause in your baby's babble to "answer." The give-and-take of these early discussions will set the stage for those first real words in the months to come. Ask your baby questions, and respond enthusiastically to whatever answers you get.
Introduce your baby to simple words that apply to everyday life. Use adult words — experts say that babies understand words long before they can pronounce them, and good speech habits help shape a baby's speech patterns.
When you talk to your baby, slow your speech and emphasize single words — for example, say: "Do you want a toy? This is your toy," as you show it to him or her. Then wait for a response. Following your speech with moments of silence will encourage your baby to vocalize and teach that conversation involves taking turns.
Your baby will love being read to from books with large, brightly colored pictures, and this will help form good speech habits while your little one enjoys looking at the images.
Sometimes babies are not in the mood to vocalize and need a break from all the stimulation around them. If your baby turns away, closes his or her eyes, or becomes fussy, let your baby be.
Should I Be Concerned?
Your baby will probably reach some communication milestones during this period. By the end of the seventh month, babies usually:
- respond to their names
- respond to sounds by making their own
- start to babble or imitate sounds
Remember that there is a wide range of what's normal for babies. There is usually no cause for concern, but talk to your doctor if your baby misses any of these milestones.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: July 2008