Why is my baby not talking yet?

Whether your baby is hungry, tired, ill, or even throwing a tantrum; crying lets you know she’s communicating – loudly! But what happens when all is silent? Should you worry? Not necessarily.

The late talkers

Don’t stress. All babies develop at their own pace. For some, speaking comes at the tail-end, while others start babbling sooner than expected. Soon enough your baby should be able to express herself with gibberish. Experts say that if by 18 months your little one isn’t chatting yet, then you can check in with your paediatrician to look for solutions. Boys typically tend to develop language skills slower than girls (especially under the age of two). And babies with more reserved personalities may only start to speak when they better understand what they hear.

Remember, your baby crawls before walking. The same applies with talking. Babbling comes before big chats! Think of babbling as an important milestone. It’s a sign of the beginning of communication. Your baby will start to experiment with sounds. Listen for a reaction and respond.

Is baby talk helpful?

The more you chat to your toddler, the more she learns how to talk. According to research by the University of Washington, the more words babies hear the faster their vocabulary grows. When parents exaggerate vowels, like “How are youuuuu?”, and raise the pitch of their voices, the more a baby babbles, which helps with word production.

Remember – there is more to communication than talking!

1. Understanding: If your child seems to understand a great deal of what you’re saying, she’s well on her way to talking.

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2. Pointing: When your child shows you something she wants, it’s closely related to the beginning of actual speech.

3. Gestures and facial expressions: Whether it’s a cry or nonverbal communication; gestures and facial expressions can tell you a lot about how your baby feels. It’s either time for a nappy change or she’s uncomfortable or intrigued by what she sees. Until about 24 months, it’s more important that your child is making some kind of effort to communicate.

4. Grunting: Little grunts can be a type of commentary. Children who aren’t talking yet and don’t grunt are more likely to later be diagnosed with a language delay.

Language stepping stones

  • By 9 months, your infant babbles and understands simple commands.
  • By 12 months, s/he understands keywords in familiar situations.
  • By 16 months, s/he babbles short sentences and starts to point at people, animals or request toys.
  • By 24 to 30 months, s/he starts to speak in two-word phrases and understand explanations.
  • By 36 months, s/he uses 200 or more words. Grammar may not be in place and speech sounds won’t necessarily be pronounced correctly.

The treatment of language disorders is early intervention. See a doctor if your baby’s language development is delayed by three to six months. It’s also advisable to have their hearing examined to know what may be causing speech and language delay.