You hear your baby doing this all the time-- making cute little noises that make you beam. Some of it might sound like a soft murmuring sound, cooing, or they may even possibly sound like words, such as “bababa” and “dada”. This stage is not just absolutely adorable but also super important in your baby’s development. When your baby is playing with sounds like this they are actually learning! Indeed, they are learning how to move their lips and tongue to use those sounds for “real” words. So, babbling is essentially the building blocks for what we recognize as real words, as language.
Not only is it the beginning stage of language, it can also be a great indicator of the potential of your child’s language abilities later on in life. In fact, delays in babbling have been linked to developmental delays such as autism spectrum disorder, childhood apraxia of speech and speech/language delays.
So how does babbling develop? Babies actually start right when they are born! The first cry you hear after birth is really the first stage of babbling. Crying then develops into cooing and that amazing first laugh! Then around 5 to 10 months of age babies will generally start what is called ‘canonical babbling’, where they repeat syllables like “baba”. Then they will begin to use variety in their sounds, called variegated babbling, (e.g. “ba-doo”). The next stage is called jargon. This is what I like to call using nonsense words with intention. In this stage, you know your child is saying something to you and they seem so adamant that they are saying something very important to you, but you cannot make out the actual words. They may even vary their voice so it seems like a conversation but with indiscernible words. After about a year of this “sound play,” your baby will begin to say their first words!
Some quick things to know about babbling:
• The sounds, rhythm, and tone in babbling are influenced by the language the baby is exposed to. In other words, babies babble using the sounds they hear around them.
• Babies who are exposed to more than one language babble as much as babies exposed to only one language.
• The consonants used in a baby’s babble are usually the consonants that appear in his first words.
• Children who are delayed in their development of sounds or babbling are at risk of having a communication delay.
Here are some cute video examples of the different types of babbling:
• Phonation a/k/a producing sound (e.g. cry, burp, sneeze)
• Babbling a/k/a repeating syllables (e.g. "mama", "baba")
• Variegated Babbling a/k/a uses different syllable shapes (e.g. "ba-doo")
So, babbling is a great magical thing that babies do naturally and it is the building block of language. It can also be an early indicator that your child might have later difficulties with language later in life. If you have any questions or would like more information, feel free to ask!