Baby Sounds/Babbling



Premature babies may be at risk of reaching their speech and language milestones later than their full-term peers. These milestones are related to language understanding, vocabulary size, grammar skills, sound production, self-regulation, and social interaction. 

Studies show that babies born preterm tend to have a smaller vocabulary at 3 years of age compared with babies born full term. Without support, this gap can continue to widen through preschool and school age (Zimmerman, 2018). 

According to Sansavini (2011), preterm babies may develop gestures, words and language understanding at a slower rate than full-term babies. This results in an increasing difference in language skills that continues to widen through early childhood. 

A longitudinal study by Stolt and colleagues (2016) followed a group of 29 preterm and 28 full term children from birth to school age. They found that in preterm children, the development of gestures at 1 year of age is significantly and positively correlated with vocabulary development at 5 years of age. Children born prematurely are more likely to have weaker language comprehension and a smaller vocabulary than their full term peers. 


When do babies start cooing?  

Cooing sounds typically start off as a series of “oohs” and “aahs.” Your baby may also make gurgling sounds and start to experiment with making sounds with their lips. These fun little noises play an important role: Cooing helps babies develop the muscles they’ll use later on when they learn to talk.  

Your baby may begin vocalizing anytime between the first few weeks and the second month, progressing from random experimental sighs and coos to sounds that are actually directed at toys, pets, objects and people. Around the 2-month mark, most babies will have developed a personal repertoire of vowel sounds, cooing and gurgling. 

When do babies start babbling? 

Babbling is an important part of language development. Babbling is a combination of consonant and vowel sounds — single syllable sounds like “pa” or “ba,” as well as more complex, strung-together sounds like "a-ga," "a-da" or a long “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba.”  

Most babies begin to babble by month 4, though your little one will continue to develop his repertoire of sounds for many months to follow. 

Although your baby's vocalization timeline may vary, here's a look at roughly what to expect when it comes to your little one's first sounds: 

  • By 2 months: Cooing and gurgling 
  • By 4 months: Begins to babble 
  • By 6 months: Strings vowels together (such as "ah" and "oh") and starts saying consonant sounds  
  • By 9 months: Makes many different sounds (such as "da-da-da"), may develop “jargon which is sentence sounding strings that mimic patterns of adult speech but does not usually contain actual words” 
  • By 12 months: Has a few basic first words and makes sounds with changes in tone 
  • By 18 months: Says several words and may be making 1-2 word combinations in context. 

How to help your baby babble 

The best way to boost your baby’s language skills is by copying them and talking. This will help build both your baby’s receptive language skills (the ability to understand what they hear) and their expressive language skills (the ability to say words).  

There's no right way to talk to your baby; whether you're reading a book, chattering about the weather or describing what's in your shopping cart at the grocery store, your baby's language skills benefit. Babies love being spoken to, listening to you and mimicking sounds back as this is how they eventually learn to talk.  

Here are some more ways to encourage your baby's babbles: 

  • Be a copycat. Repeat your baby's “da-da-da” right back to them. And if you hear your baby imitating a sound that you make, say it again — and again. Repetition may seem silly to you, but it's exciting for your baby: It encourages their vocalization practice while also teaching them to get attention, take turns and that sounds aren't just fun to make, they're also ways to communicate.  
  • Make eye contact. When your baby babbles, look them in the eyes, smile and respond. Just like that, you’re showing them how to have a “conversation.” 
  • Narrate what you’re doing. Give your baby a play-by-play of your day. "I'm putting on putting our dinner in the oven, I’m doing the washing” They may not understand what you're saying now, but they will soon!  
  • Ask lots of questions. They can be about anything. "Should we walk to the park or the library?" "Do you think Grandpa would like this cake with roses on it or this one with the balloons?" Then follow up with an answer: "Yes, I think Grandma would like these pretty flowers.” Even though you're talking to yourself, you're also modelling the natural give-and-take of conversation. 
  • Read to your baby. Books are a super source of new words for children of all ages. 
  • Sing songs. Whether you’re pitch perfect or off-key, baby won’t mind. Singing the same songs over and over again — especially silly songs or those paired with gestures, actions or animal noises — just might encourage your little one to eventually chime in on a chorus or two. 
  • Give everything a name. Point out different objects and talk about them by name — like “ball,” “apple” and “toes.” Or give your baby a toy and talk about it. "Dog! This is a purple dog. Woof woof!" 
  • Point out sounds. "Listen, a kitty is purring!" or "I hear a car going zoom, zoom down the road." 


Baby babbles are building blocks for language and language comprehension (understanding), and even the silliest sounds and noises help your child practice the mouth movements your baby will need for their first real words. 

As for when your baby will start talking? With enough practice and encouragement from you, your baby’s babbles will soon combine to form word-sounds and basic words. Most babies have one to two words by 12 months, though some children take a little longer to start talking. 

Remember that children develop on their own timelines, and in all likelihood, your little one will be saying "no!" and "mine!" before you know it. But if your baby isn’t babbling by the 8-month mark or does not have one to two words by 12 to 15 months, and you feel concerned, it’s worth mentioning to your GP or paediatrician. 

Useful Links 


Speech Net 

The Royal Children’s Hospital -Melbourne 

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Disclaimer: This publication by Miracle Babies Foundation is intended solely for general education and assistance and it is it is not medical advice or a healthcare recommendation. It should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment for any individual condition. This publication has been developed by our Parent Advisory Team (all who are parents of premature and sick babies) and has been reviewed and approved by a Clinical Advisory Team. This publication is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Miracle Babies Foundation recommends that professional medical advice and services be sought out from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your personal circumstances. To the extent permitted by law, Miracle Babies Foundation excludes and disclaims any liability of any kind (directly or indirectly arising) to any reader of this publication who acts or does not act in reliance wholly or partly on the content of this general publication. If you would like to provide any feedback on the information please email [email protected].