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Speech Skills In Infants

Infants have speech skills at birth.  Wow, you say, how can that be?

During the first year there are many mouth movements, sounds, hearing skills and interaction skills developing before real words begin.

At birth your infant quickly learns about breathing, sucking, swallowing, and crying.  The newborn also reacts to sound.

Crying quickly changes into at least 4 types of crying sounds.  I’m hungry cry.  I’m tired cry.  I’m in pain cry.  I want someone to love me cry (for attention and interaction).

Hearing sharp sounds cause the newborn to widen the eyes or have a total body startle reaction. This startle reflex settles down over a number of weeks. Then your baby starts to learn to listen.  This is vital to learn about speech and language.  After a few weeks an infant will listen for your voice and be soothed by your gentle and cheery words.  In a few more weeks an infant can be seen turning the head to sounds.  After 6 months you will notice that your baby is starting to understand words of your language.  He/she will start looking at items you talk about “Where’s puppy? Where’s daddy?  Where’s bottle?”

Suck – Swallow – Breathe pattern starts the first day for the importance of feeding. All the mouth movements in feeding set the stage for speech.

Cooing is heard in the first few months.  These are throaty vowel sounds like ah-oo-ee. Lip sounds like blowing air between lips are common.  Smiles are abundant as your baby likes social attention.  Your play each day with your baby is much more important than any toy!

Babbling is heard after 6-7 months.  A baby naturally practices many different consonant and vowel sounds like ma-ma-ma, ba-ba-ba, ka-ka-ka and other mixtures of sounds.  Always encourage this sound play.  Short strings of babbling becomes connected to make longs strings of speech sounds.  Often parents say, “It sounds like my baby is trying to tell a story”.  Babies love to play with sounds while alone after a nap.  Later when parents start to imitate their baby’s sounds, the baby will keep repeating the sounds.  Soon the baby imitates the simple sounds the parent uses.  This is the foundation of meaningful speech.

What if my baby is not following these stages?

  • Check each of these skills – is the infant struggling in any of the areas – feeding, sound play, hearing and listening, social interaction.
  • Do not hesitate to ask someone to help you check.  A Speech-Language Pathologist with experience can help you check into these areas and provide suggestions.  
  • There are other people who can help.
    Audiologists and Ear-Nose-Throat specialists will check into hearing.  Feeding specialists can help with feeding weaknesses.  Family doctors, Pediatricians, and Public Health Nurses can help you connect with specialists.