First Sounds and First Words | What to Expect from Your Baby

Talking. Some of us don’t like to do it and some of us do it too much. But one of the most exciting things for parents is to witness their child’s first words. Babies learn to talk throughout their first two years of life and believe it or not, there are speech and language milestones that are achieved in the first few months of life. Here is a general outline of the speech and language milestones your child should be achieving from birth to 2 years.

Speech and Language Milestones from Birth to 2 Years:

Birth to 3 months

• Variety of cries to indicate needs – hungry, in need of a diaper change, or upset
• Coos, sighs, gurgles, and makes pleasure sounds
• Recognizes voices
• Localizes to sound by turning head

4 to 6 months

• Uses /p/, /b/, and /m/ to babble
• Vocalizes excitement and displeasure
• Listens to and imitates some sounds
• Responds to changes in your voice

7-12 months

• Babbles using long and short groups of sounds
• Uses a song-like intonation pattern when babbling
• Babbling has both long and  short groups of sounds such as “bababa upup tata”
• Has 1 or two words, though they may not be clear
• Uses communicative gestures such as pointing, pulling, and waving

12-18 months

• Uses nouns almost exclusively
• Uses jargon to fill gaps in fluency
• Combines gestures and vocalization
• Says more words each month, by 18 months child has a vocabulary of approximately 20 words

18 to 24 months

• Uses many different consonant sounds at beginning of words
• Expressive vocabulary of 25-50 words
• Imitates many words
• Uses some 1-2 word questions – “What’s that?” “Mommy?”
• Puts two words together – “more cookie” “no book”
• Language explosion typically occurs around 18-24 months; vocabulary grows to 150-300 words by 24 months

Further Reading

For more on Speech and Language Milestones: Birth to Age 1, click here.
For more on Speech and Language Milestones: Ages 1-2, click here.

What to Expect from Your Pediatrician during a Speech/Language Checkup

When parents develop concerns about their child’s speech and language, the first person they typically ask for help is the pediatrician. At the 15 month and 2 year checkups, discussing concerns with your pediatrician is a great way to get more information. Your pediatrician will take a close look at your child’s physical health and the major milestones achieved.

To make this easier, keep track of speech and fine/gross motor milestones and at what age they develop.

As a general rule, here are the ages at which your child should be achieving these steps:



Gross Motor


Fine Motor

Babbling 6 months Rolling 4 months Objects to midline 4 months
Gesturing to indicate want 9 months Sitting Independently 6 months Raking grasp 7 months
Following 1-step commands 12 months Crawling 8 months Finger feeds 7 months
First words 12 months Standing 9 months Pincer fingers 9 months
Combining words 24 months Walking 12 months Spoon use 15 months
Says name 35 months Running 15 months Cup use 15 months

Additionally, it is important to discuss frequent ear infections with your pediatrician. An ear infection is fluid buildup in the middle ear, essentially muffling all speech/language your child is exposed to. If your child cannot hear clearly, he will have difficultly acquiring new language. If your child is prone to chronic ear infections, discussing PE tubes may be the next step to ensuring your child develops speech and language.

If your pediatrician recommends a speech pathologist or an audiologist, read here for what to expect during a speech screening or evaluation.  If you have immediate concerns, contact a speech pathologist for a screening today.