What sounds and behaviours should we expect from our babies?

Posted on 24 October 2016 by Kristrun

My 8 month-old son, Thomas, loves to squark. Sometimes he sounds like a bird, other times he resembles a baby dinosaur on the hunt for his next feed. We lovingly gave him the nickname “Thomosaurus Rex” and shamelessly plan to dress him as a baby Stegosaurus for Halloween. At times the squawking can be loud – so loud that he receives curious looks from passersby (“is that a baby boy or dinosaur?” I assume they are thinking). My husband notices these glances and kindly shushes our son, as it may not be a socially appropriate noise to make when out and about in Hong Kong where children are typically ‘seen but not heard’. As a Speech Therapist, I am usually crouching down to face him while squarking right back at him while pulling crazy faces (getting shushed by my husband at the same time).

Babies and toddlers who coo, gurgle, babble, squark, squeak or squeal are gr2eat in my opinion, and should be supported, praised and encouraged. Ok, maybe there is a time and place for some sounds children make (shouting in a library may not be ideal) but vocalising is communication, and communication is extremely important to live a happy, productive and healthy life.

So what sounds and behaviours should we expect from our babies? Cooing, crying, smiling and making eye contact are all expected between 0-3 months of age. Between 3-6 months you should start to see some pointing, blowing raspberries and laughing (and perhaps some shrieking and squealing). You should hear some babbling with sounds made with the lips (such as ‘b’ and ‘m’) in sequences like “baba” and “mabada” between 6-9 months. More sounds should be used between 9-12 months, such as d, m, n, h, w and t. First words are generally heard at around 12 months.

Parents and carers can do a lot to help babies learn to speak by interacting with them from birth onwards by making lots of eye contact, singing, talking to the baby (even if the baby is too young to respond), playing, and imitating sounds, gestures and actions that the baby makes. This shows the baby that their sounds and actions are meaningful, and encourages them to make more of them! It is never too early to read to a baby, making sure that you choose books that are simple and colourful. Read slowly with lots of expression and point to pictures while naming them. Don’t forget to respond to your baby when they try to communicate with you, even if the noises made sound prehistoric.

Hailing from Sydney, Australia, Stephanie Eber has been working as a Speech and Language Therapist for over 10 years. She is the Senior Speech Therapist at an international school in Hong Kong while running Beyond Words Speech Therapy, a consultancy practice which runs workshops for parents, carers, domestic helpers, educators and other therapists. Visit facebook.com/BeyondWordsHK to find out more about upcoming workshops.

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