It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Your little man or lady opens their mouth and begins to say a word … and the word is “dada.” Or “book,” Or “cheese.” Anything but “mama.” So when will your child utter that magic word?
If you’re like me and you’re a mom, you may have been a tad disappointed when your little one’s first one was not “mama.” Or, when your baby continues to say new words, but still won’t say that one special word your heart is pining for. Or maybe your baby hasn’t said any sort of word yet, and you’re still waiting.
It’s easy to feel a little hurt about this fact but the truth is, many babies do not say “mama” as their first word. Many babies say random words or “dada” – which sometimes is hard for moms to understand.
Some people have implied that “dada” is simply easier for babies to say, but studies have shown that whether or not babies say “mama” or “dada” first is highly individualized with every child.
According to research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, both words are common because their repetition make them easier to sound out and babies who hear them experience more activity in the part of the brain that processes language.
When Will it Happen?
Putting the “mama” vs. “dada” battle aside, when can you actually expect your baby to say the word “mama” with meaning behind it?
As Parents Magazine shares, just like as babies have to crawl before they walk, they need to babble before they learn to talk.
“Babbling is an important milestone because it represents the beginning of real communication, when a baby starts experimenting with sounds, listening for a reaction, responding, and building social relationships,” says speech-language pathologist Sherry Artemenko.
Babies are hardwired to easily learn languages and their language development is also impacted by how and how often other people engage with them.
“Toward the end of your baby’s first year, he’ll babble in longer strings of varied short nonsense syllables, using the intonation and rhythm mimicking that of an adult,” Artemenko says. This stage is a precursor to speaking first words.
Do Babies Mean What They Say?
While some people may get excited at hearing their baby say a word in the early months, there is some debate about if a baby’s first word is actually referencing something and they understand what they are saying, or if the baby is simply just babbling.
Perhaps there is truth to both views. University of British Columbia researcher Jenn Campbell conducted a study with kids in the United States and China that found their earliest words to be utterances for daddy, followed closely by mommy.
The children were between 8 and 16 months of age and came from English, Cantonese or Mandarin households. Campbell’s own research found that babies as young as six months can understand labels for their mother and father – even though they might not utter those sounds for another month or two, or say them with intent for another six months or more.
Studies have revealed that babies may not really begin to express themselves with meaning until between 9 and 14 months. Some babies may take even longer than that to utter their first real word.
So in the end, it’s hard to say precisely when your tot will utter that magic word. However, whether your baby is an early talker or not, be sure to encourage your baby to chatter by using proper words when talking and also frequently point out objects around the house. Reading or singing to your baby to encourage vocab development is also a great idea.
Make sure to get extra excited when your baby finally does say a word like “mama” (not that you won’t be!) to keep encouraging verbal development.
On a final note, did you know that babies in nearly ever country on earth say “mama” the same way?